KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
POWNAL -- Two local hydro developers want to get the town-owned dam producing power again, and they seek a lease option agreement from the Select Board to determine the projects feasibility.
Dennis Candelora, of Pownal, and Bill Scully, of North Bennington, told the board Thursday they have formed Hoosic River Hydro, LLC, with the intent of researching the dam that once powered the Pownal Tanning Co. on the Hoosic River in North Pownal. Many developers have expressed interest in the dam, which the town now owns, the last being Encore Redevelopment, of Burlington.
Candelora, of South Stream Road, has been working on a hydro project behind his house that takes water from a stream and runs it through a turbine at the front of his property. It doesn’t pent any water, like a dam, and uses gravity to do the work. He said he has worked out the interconnection issues with the lines owned by Central Vermont Public Service and is now working on the tail end of the permitting process. He said he expects to go online in the spring of 2013.
Scully has been working on the dam behind the former Vermont Tissue Co. in North Bennington to get it producing power. He said he has developed fish migration routes around the dam there, and is working on environmental issues.
The Tissue dam and the North Pownal dam have a similar problem: Industrial pollutants built up in the sediment behind them. Candelora said Encore Redevelopment was estimating in 2009 the entire cost of cleanup would be around $3.7 million. State and federal regulations will not allow work that would disturb the sediment and send the polluted material downstream. The cost of cleanup has been an obstacle for many developers, despite some federal Brownfields grants that have paid for preliminary studies.
"This is not going to be a fast process at all," said Scully, adding that he would expect it to be three years at least for the feasibility study to be complete. He said there needs to be a lease option agreement first before he and Candelora can begin.
The board voted to send the suggested language for the agreement to its attorney. The agreement mirrors the one the town had with Encore, in that the town would get 2 percent of the revenue generated by selling the power from the dam. It also voted to make board member Ronald Bisson a liaison between the board and Hoosic River Hydro, as Bisson is knowledgeable about the dam and its workings.
Candelora said his company plans to seek state and federal grants, as well as traditional financing for the project. He said they do not expect money from the state’s SPEED program, which offered above-market rates on renewable energy projects.
The board said it will have to have further discussion with Candelora and Scully on matters such as taxation and a dam break study. There is legislation being mulled over that outlines how renewable energy projects are taxed locally, and the Pownal dam must also have a dam break study done, which determines where water will go and what it’s likely to do should the dam fail.
Candelora and Scully said they are confident about the dam, which they said was built in the 1950s and is fairly young by dam standards.
The former tannery and original textile mill on the site was razed as part of a largescale Superfund cleanup project.
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