Construction on the Kingdom Community Wind Project is temporarily on hold after the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources issued a stop-work order.
Green Mountain Power, the utility that is building the project, violated part of its Clean Water Act permit when it failed to comply with part of its sediment control plan.
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears said workers in the project were running trucks in an area where GMP had failed to provide sediment controls to prevent stormwater discharges.
“They had a discharge, and we asked them to stop work,” Mears said.
ANR issued the stop-work order Wednesday. Dottie Schnure, a spokeswoman for Green Mountain Power said the heavy rains from last weekend demonstrated that some of the controls the company had in place to prevent stormwater runoff were not effective. “We’re working toward more permanent controls,” Schnure said.
Schnure said Green Mountain Power would notify the Vermont Public Service Board (the state regulatory agency that issued the certificate of public good for the project), but the company will be working with ANR to rectify the problem. She said the company is working on doing all the fixes it can to make sure it complies with all of its stormwater permits.
GMP’s stormwater permit requires both temporary controls during construction and permanent controls during operation of the project. The problem this week had to do with a failure to comply with a “sediment control plan” that is meant to ensure that things like fill material and other fine particulates do not wash away into local waterways. Schnure said GMP has currently stopped all construction work until ANR gives them the go-ahead to continue. Mears said he was not sure when the state agency might lift the order, but he said he hoped GMP could complete all the necessary work within a few days before more rain caused more stormwater discharges.
The Kingdom Community Wind Project is slated for completion by the end of 2012. Green Mountain Power hopes to have the project online by that date in order to take advantage of federal tax credits. The 63-megawatt, 21-turbine wind project is designed to be able to provide power for more than 24,000 homes.
Construction on the project began in early September. In August, the Agency of Natural Resources approved numerous stormwater permits for the project. These included: Two stormwater permits for the access road, the wind farm and the associated transmission line; a state stormwater operational permit for control of discharges from impervious surfaces; a wetlands permit; and a certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act that the project would not violate state water quality standards.
The wind project, Vermont’s largest wind energy development, was supported by a vote in the town of Lowell, but it faced strong opposition from some in neighboring communities. Opponents questioned whether the project was worth the environmental cost of building access roads and disturbing wildlife habitat in addition to the project’s impacts on the ridgeline’s aesthetics.
Green Mountain Power received a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board in late May. The certificate approved the project subject to certain conditions, including mitigation of environmental impacts. The approval was expressly conditioned on a memorandum of understanding with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to mitigate the impacts of the proposed project with respect to habitat fragmentation, necessary wildlife habitat, and state-significant natural communities. In addition, Green Mountain Power had to obtain other permits under the Clean Water Act and to mitigate noise impacts.
Most recently, opponents have set up a small camp on property owned by Don and Shirley Nelson in efforts to stop the project.
Despite its setbacks, Schnure of Green Mountain Power said she is still confident the Kingdom Community Wind project is still on track to be online by the end of 2012.