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Minuteman Wind nets heavy criticism

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has blasted the environmental notification form filed by Minuteman Wind LLC for its $35 million West Hill windmill project as "wholly inadequate," citing numerous environmental concerns and casting extreme doubt on whether the developer could deliver its five turbines over the transportation routes proposed. Nathaniel Karns, planning commission executive director, said Tuesday that Minuteman needs to rethink its plans.

SAVOY --The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has blasted the environmental notification form filed by Minuteman Wind LLC for its $35 million West Hill windmill project as "wholly inadequate," citing numerous environmental concerns and casting extreme doubt on whether the developer could deliver its five turbines over the transportation routes proposed.

Nathaniel Karns, planning commission executive director, said Tuesday that Minuteman needs to rethink its plans if it hopes to get through the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) process. The commission has recommended that the developer should be required to submit a full environmental impact report or at least to deliver a revised expanded environmental notification form "with a much greater level of detail and information" before the project can proceed.

Environmental concerns listed in the commission's final comments on the project include potential impacts on wetlands and problems with storm-water runoff. A report by the commission's Clearinghouse Review Committee also found that Minuteman failed to include an on-site assessment to determine the risk to bats and nocturnal birds, did not include nighttime simulations to show required lighting by... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

SAVOY --The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has blasted the environmental notification form filed by Minuteman Wind LLC for its $35 million West Hill windmill project as "wholly inadequate," citing numerous environmental concerns and casting extreme doubt on whether the developer could deliver its five turbines over the transportation routes proposed.

Nathaniel Karns, planning commission executive director, said Tuesday that Minuteman needs to rethink its plans if it hopes to get through the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) process. The commission has recommended that the developer should be required to submit a full environmental impact report or at least to deliver a revised expanded environmental notification form "with a much greater level of detail and information" before the project can proceed.

Environmental concerns listed in the commission's final comments on the project include potential impacts on wetlands and problems with storm-water runoff. A report by the commission's Clearinghouse Review Committee also found that Minuteman failed to include an on-site assessment to determine the risk to bats and nocturnal birds, did not include nighttime simulations to show required lighting by the Federal Aviation Administration and "lacked any plans or discussion of measures to avoid or mitigate shadow/flicker impacts on nearby residences."

"A meaningful opportunity for review of a project cannot occur when the proponent fails to provide details or plans of anticipated environmental impacts and then claims that such plans or details will be worked out at a later date, thereby circumventing a complete and adequate MEPA review of the project," the review committee said in its final report.

Karns said the expanded environmental notification form, or EENF, Minuteman submitted to the state for the 12.5-megawatt wind farm on 290 acres of West Hill has several problems, ranging from lack of information to not adhering to generally accepted professional standards.

"This is one of the weaker environmental notification forms I've ever seen," he said.

Efforts to reach Minuteman Wind representatives for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. The developer has been hoping to break ground on the project this summer.

One of the areas of particular concern for the planning commission is the proposed transportation route for the construction material and turbine parts. Because of the turbines' shaft lengths of roughly 250 feet and blade lengths of about 150 feet, the commission believes it will be difficult to find an adequate route through Berkshire County.

The proposed route has the turbines traveling from the Massachusetts Turnpike to Route 20 in Lee, to Route 7 to Pittsfield, to Route 9 in Dalton, to Route 8A in Windsor and Savoy.

"Based upon local knowledge of the planned transportation route, the proponent will be unable to physically maneuver the large pieces of equipment through portions of Lee, Pittsfield and Dalton without major modifications to existing intersections in these locations," the committee's report states.

Among the troublesome intersections would be the following: In Lee, Housatonic Street to Park Street, Park Street to Main Street and Main Street to West Center Street; in Pittsfield, South Street to East Street, Merrill Road to Dalton Avenue; and in Dalton, Main Street (Routes 8 and 9) to North Street (Routes 8 and 9).

"We couldn't envision how some of those components are going to be maneuvered through these communities," Karns said. "I'm not sure it's physically possible. It's hard enough to get through downtown Lee in a normal tractor trailer."

He said neither he nor the planning commission could offer an alternative route that makes sense. Minuteman has proposed the alternative of going through Savoy State Forest, but that would have potential wetland impacts and would require the rebuilding of a degraded road.

A second alternative would be to use Black Brook Road, but, according to the commission, that would require the replacement of a bridge, an expense Minuteman is not willing to assume.

Karns said he is not sure developers realize all the potential challenges when planning wind projects.

"Just because a site has high wind doesn't necessarily mean it is a great site, for a lot of other reasons -- one of them being the transport routes," he said. "We're not moving these components across the open plains of west Texas."

Overall, the planning commission's report found that Minuteman has not provided sufficient information to determine whether the project as proposed is appropriate for Berkshire County. Karns said the commission has reserved judgment on the validity of a wind farm in Savoy, however, because it is not its place to make that judgment. He said the commission's role is the same for a wind farm as it is for a road reconstruction project or new shopping center -- to check and see if the information provided is adequate.

"We don't hold judgment on the projects themselves," he said. "We hold judgment on the level of information being provided on the projects and whether it is complete, accurate and whether the conclusions are logical."


Source: http://www.thetranscript.co...

FEB 2 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/24418-minuteman-wind-nets-heavy-criticism
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