Precedent-Setting Wind Project Will Likely Be Appealed
01/04/12 5:50PM By Susan Keese
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(Host) A 15-turbine wind project just approved by the Green Mountain National Forest could set a precedent as the nation's first commercial wind farm on national forest land.
But opponents say the Deerfield Wind project will be appealed.
VPR's Susan Keese has more.
(Keese) Deerfield Wind is a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish company that's one of the largest wind developers in this country.
The development covers 80 acres of National Forest in Readsboro and Searsburg. It was one of 14 renewable power projects fast-tracked this summer by the Obama administration.
The proposal has been under scrutiny for years. The state Public Service Board approved it, with conditions, in 2009.
Green Mountain National Forest spokesman Ethan Ready says the Forest Service's decision was scheduled for the end of December, even without the president's help.
(Ready) "With projects of this magnitude we have to go through the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires us to do in-depth policy analysis and... a lot of scientific work. So we're really proud of the work we've done... and we think that it's been an extensive and thorough process which has involved the public."
(Keese) Ready says the forest received more than a thousand comments. They're addressed in the 400 page environmental impact statement and 70-page decision.
At 410 feet tall, the new turbines would be twice the height of towers at an existing adjacent wind farm, and will require aircraft safety lighting.
That's a major concern for the group Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Annette Smith directs the group. She says the lights will be visible from the 5,000 acre George D. Aiken Wilderness, a few miles away.
(Smith) "More than half the area inside the wilderness you will be able to see the wind turbines from, with their blinking lights... and this is totally contrary to everything that the wilderness plan calls for."
(Keese) The project has also drawn concern from biologists and wildlife advocates, who worry about the removal of beech groves used by black bears as a food source.
The permits require the developer to set aside 144 acres of comparable bear habitat and to continue extensive bear, bat and bird impact surveys once the turbines are running.
The Forest Service says the public will have 45 days to appeal the decision, after legal notices are published.
Annette Smith says her group will appeal, and she expects others to do the same.
For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese in Manchester.