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Virginia to consider visual impact in wind turbine approval

The company planning an industrial wind facility on Tamarack Ridge didn't want to talk about visual impact on Camp Allegheny when it seeks approval to build the 19 gigantic turbines. But a Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) hearing examiner ordered on September 23 that visual impact will be considered when the SCC hears arguments over the company's compliance with permit conditions.

The company planning an industrial wind facility on Tamarack Ridge didn't want to talk about visual impact on Camp Allegheny when it seeks approval to build the 19 gigantic turbines.

But a Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) hearing examiner ordered on September 23 that visual impact will be considered when the SCC hears arguments over the company's compliance with permit conditions.

The Highland County Commission granted a local use permit to Highland New Wind Development, LLC (HNWD) to build the 400-foot turbines in July, 2005.

The SCC granted conditional approval in December, 2007, which requires HNWD to meet several conditions before final approval will be granted. One of the conditions directs that HNWD coordinate with DHR for guidance regarding the potential need for archaeological and architectural surveys, recommended studies and field surveys to evaluate the project's impacts to historic resources.

HNWD, owned by Henry and Lola McBride, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, informed the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) that the company had met all conditions regarding historic studies and ignored DHR requests for further information.

On August 19, Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, Director... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The company planning an industrial wind facility on Tamarack Ridge didn't want to talk about visual impact on Camp Allegheny when it seeks approval to build the 19 gigantic turbines.

But a Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) hearing examiner ordered on September 23 that visual impact will be considered when the SCC hears arguments over the company's compliance with permit conditions.

The Highland County Commission granted a local use permit to Highland New Wind Development, LLC (HNWD) to build the 400-foot turbines in July, 2005.

The SCC granted conditional approval in December, 2007, which requires HNWD to meet several conditions before final approval will be granted. One of the conditions directs that HNWD coordinate with DHR for guidance regarding the potential need for archaeological and architectural surveys, recommended studies and field surveys to evaluate the project's impacts to historic resources.

HNWD, owned by Henry and Lola McBride, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, informed the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) that the company had met all conditions regarding historic studies and ignored DHR requests for further information.

On August 19, Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, Director of the DHR, filed a complaint with the SCC on August 19, stating that HNWD had failed to properly consider the impact of the proposed facility on historic sites.

The letter reads, in part, "It is our reading of the December 20, 2007 Final Order that HNWD has been directed to enter into constructive consultation with DHR concerning the necessary studies to identify historic resources and the evaluation of the project's effects. While HNWD has consulted with DHR, it has not undertaken identification studies to the standards recommended as appropriate, and we do not believe that HNWD's efforts have been sufficient to comply with the Order. Furthermore, we believe that the Order assumes that if adverse effects are identified, reasonable efforts will be undertaken to address them. To our knowledge, HNWD has made no efforts to minimize effects, and has instead terminated consultation with this agency."

An SCC hearing was scheduled for September 23 to hear arguments on DHR's complaint against the wind energy developer.

Two days prior to the hearing, HNWD filed a motion contending that the issue of visual impact was irrelevant and should be excluded from the hearing. The parties agreed to limit the September 13 hearing to the issue of relevancy alone.

Counsel for HNWD argued that the company had already provided a viewshed analysis to the DHR and that the issue of visual impact had already been decided by the Highland County Commission when it issued a local use permit.

Counsel for DHR argued that a viewshed is not the same as visual impact and that Highland County's approval was not determinative.

The SCC hearing examiner agreed with DHR and denied HNWD's motion, ruling that visual impact analysis will be considered during arguments on DHR's complaint, which are now scheduled for October 13 at the SCC in Richmond.

The Tamarack Ridge wind project, which sits adjacent to the West Virginia - Virginia state line, has created a firestorm of controversy in both states.

Landowners in Virginia have questioned the impact of the project on the local watershed.

In West Virginia, the Pocahontas County Commission became involved after HNWD issued a site plan and began road-building for the project. The site plan, prepared by Blackwell Engineers, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, indicates two of the turbines blades, and possibly more of the structures, would encroach into West Virginia territory.

Pamela Dodds, PhD. in geology, told the commission on September 1 that the proposed wind turbine project threatens the waters of Little River in West Virginia, a pristine Tier 3 stream. The geologist urged the commission to seek assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources to force the developer to prepare a storm water management plan for West Virginia into their project design.

The commission sent a letter to the West Virginia Public Service Commission last month, requesting the agency investigate the wind project's negative impacts in Pocahontas County.

To date, HNWD has done no coordination and received no permissions from West Virginia agencies.


Source: http://www.pocahontastimes....

SEP 30 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22444-virginia-to-consider-visual-impact-in-wind-turbine-approval
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