By Nancy Tips and Lynn Barrett
On Friday, March 18 before an audience of more than 100, Geoffrey Goll, P.E., environmental engineer and vice-president of Princeton Hydro, described the failure of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources to protect the public from potential damage caused by the ridgeline wind installation at Lowell Mountain in Vermont.
“Based on the lack of enforcement by the Agency of Natural Resources of the condition of their operational stormwater permit to monitor their experimental stormwater management systems at Green Mountain Power’s Lowell Kingdom Community Wind (KCW) project,” he said, “Vermont is well on its way to violating its own stormwater management rules, its obligations as a US EPA delegated agency, and the Federal Clean Water Act.”
Geoffrey Goll speaks before an audience of more than 100 at an event sponsored by Grafton Woodlands Group and Friends of Windham on March 18, 2016.
Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) has approved experimental stormwater systems for Green Mountain Power’s (GMP) Lowell Wind project, and issued permits using the same experimental technologies called “level spreaders” for Iberdrola’s Deerfield Wind project on US Forest Service Land. The same system is likely to be approved by ANR for Iberdrola’s Stiles Brook project proposed for Grafton and Windham.
Lowell’s 21 industrial wind turbines have been operating since October 2012. Goll gave expert testimony during the permitting process for the Lowell installation (2/2/2012).
Describing the permitting process, Goll said that an ANR identified alternative stormwater treatment practice, or “experimental stormwater management system”, as he describes them, was permitted at Lowell contingent on a study that should have begun in 2013 in order for GMP to be able to complete their study before the permits were to expire in August 2016. The study would enable the public and ANR to determine whether or not the experimental devices were successful in controlling erosion and speeded-up run-off from the high-elevation site.
However, more than 2 years after the study was to begin, no data had been collected, and the ANR has made no effort to demand compliance by the Lowell installation developer, Green Mountain Power.
According to Goll, part of the problem lies in the permitting process, which allows mammoth ridgeline construction projects, such as the 28-turbine proposal currently being considered for the Stiles Brook Forest in Windham and Grafton, to build project scale pilot or experimental stormwater management systems.
This despite the fact that “conducting massive blasting and earthwork operations associated with ridgeline wind in high elevation, extremely steep and sensitive environments is already a risk even if already accepted ANR stormwater management systems are employed.”
“The installation of these developments permanently alters the headwaters and hydrology of these mountains; which are not only the first defense against flooding and the impacts of climate change, but also the state’s source of clean and cold water.”
Goll concluded, “We still don’t know whether the experimental stormwater controls at Lowell are working, because there is no data, as the stormwater system monitoring requirements of the permit has not begun. We do know that the permitting, monitoring, and compliance system that Vermont developed is not working to protect the public due to lack of enforcement.”
The talk was sponsored by the Grafton Woodlands Group and Friends of Windham.
Geoffrey Goll is licensed professional engineer in seven states, including Vermont, and a founding partner of Princeton Hydro, a water resource and soils engineering firm.