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US Forest Service -
Third-Party NEPA Environmental Impact Statements
Deerfield Wind, LLC, Searsburg & Readsboro, VT
ESS assisted the US Forest Service as part of the third party contractor team for preparation of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the Deerfield Wind Project. The project proposes to construct up to 17 wind turbines (45 MW) on federal land in the Manchester District of the Green Mountain National Forest in the towns of Searsburg and Readsboro, Vermont. The Project would utilize approximately 80-acres of National Forest land generally lying on two separate ridge lines east and west of Vermont Route 8.
Deerfield Wind has applied to the Forest Service for a Special Use Permit for authorization to use public lands under the management of the Forest Service for construction and long-term operation of a wind generating facility. The issuance of the permit is a federal action that requires review under NEPA.
To address NEPA requirements for the project, ESS and the Project Team worked with the Forest Service to review existing studies and determine if any additional studies were required to support a Draft EIS and to describe the Purpose and Need for the Action.
To supplement existing data, ESS and the Project Team identified and assisted with developing the appropriate scope for additional technical studies to address potential impacts and mitigation.
Some of the issues being addressed in this process are project alternatives, impacts to natural resources including birds, bats, and wetlands; visual impacts; neighboring land uses; noise; communication; safety; air quality; geology; cultural resources; socioeconomics; transportation; and cumulative impacts.
The project is adjacent to the existing 11-turbine Searsburg Wind project, and would utilize certain facilities and infrastructure of the existing wind farm such as the access road. During the NEPA review, ESS worked with the Project Team to refine the design as required to address comments on the EIS and further minimize potential impacts.
ESS and the Project Team wrote the Draft EIS (DEIS) and responded to comments. The Final EIS is under preparation by the Forest Service to issue a Record of Decision (ROD). ESS published the DEIS, including plans, figures, and GIS graphics for the NEPA submittal.
The NEPA EIS documents prepared by ESS and the Project Team describe methodologies that will be used during construction to minimize impacts. These methodologies include avoidance of resource areas, construction stormwater management, erosion and sedimentation controls, and restoration of temporarily impacted natural resource areas. Transportation of building materials and access to the project area was of particular concern in these evaluations because of the size of the turbines and construction machinery, the project area terrain, and the project’s remote location.
Renewable electric power from the Project will be distributed to the Green Mountain Power (GMP) electric grid which is connected to the larger regional transmission grid operated by ISO-New England. The NEPA EIS documents prepared by ESS and the Project Team include a discussion of operational procedures that will be implemented to protect environmental resources and public safety during operation.