Forest Service defends Searsburg-Readsboro wind project

Posted
Friday June 29, 2012

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

SEARSBURG -- The Green Mountain National Forest filed a response earlier this week to a lawsuit from a non-profit group opposing the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a wind power project on federal forestland in the towns of Searsburg and Readsboro.

If completed, the Deerfield Wind Project would be the first of its kind on National Forest land.

In April, Vermonters for a Clean Environment filed suit in U.S. District Court District of Vermont against the Green Mountain National Forest and some of its employees, including Forest Supervisor Colleen Madrid, who approved the project.

The project was approved to include 15 turbines, each 398 feet high, which would be split between ridge lines on either side of Route 8. It would be a geographical extension of an existing wind power facility owned by Green Mountain Power. GMP would not own the project, however. The company behind it is Deerfield Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola SA, based in Spain.

Concerns over lost bear habitat and the threat to migratory bird populations as well as bats, were raised during the permitting process. The Vermont Public Service Board gave its blessing to the project in 2010, leaving the Forest Service to conduct its own round of environmental impact studies, which Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VEC) says were not adequate.

VEC also contends that part of the project will extend into the Lamb Brook area, which is to the east of Route 8. They say an injunction was placed there on timber harvest from a 1995 case and has never been lifted or modified.

In its response, the Forest Service, represented by the U.S. Attorney General's Office, District of Vermont, denied that the project violates the term of the injunction placed by the court in National Audubon Society v. Hoffman.

The Forest Service also denied that any of its studies regarding animal habitat, noise, or aesthetic impacts were faulty or did not go far enough.

The suit also claims two area residents as plaintiffs, Tyler Resch, of Shaftsbury, and Thomas Shea, who both own property near the project. Each said it would cause them to lose the enjoyment of their property.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr


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