State Says Lowell Wind Site Held up Well During Rains

LOWELL - The strong storms that tore through the area May 29 caused problems at the Lowell wind site. Repair work began as soon as the rain stopped. Several silt fences, ditches, and culverts were in need and a plugged culvert caused several problems and overwhelmed other systems. Some significant erosion occurred in some areas that needed restoring. Sediment was found in streams and wetlands. Some discharge is allowed by the permit. Kevin Burke, with the Department of Environmental Conservation's storm water program, completed a report after inspecting the area. He said Wednesday that the system held up fairly well considering the amount of rain that fell over a short period of time.The site was designed in accordance with established storm water treatment standards.Some people are concerned that the significant amount of flooding in the town of Lowell during the storm was exacerbated by the run-off from the construction site. Burke said he can’t say if it was or not.Whether or not the wetlands and streams need restoring is still under investigation.Burke’s report states that approximately two inches fell in the morning hours and two to four more fell in the afternoon. The National Weather Service (NOAA) does not have rain measurement equipment for taking measurements in Lowell. However according to NOAA’s radar, more than five inches of rain fell on Lowell during the storm, said Meteorologist Peter Banacos with NOAA in Burlington.Banacos said that it is not that unusual to have four or five inches of rain fall on a Vermont town with flash flooding occurring nearly every summer. He also said the weather service is trying to refrain from the “100 year event” estimate as it can be misleading.Meanwhile the storm water permit for the Lowell wind project is under appeal and the hearings are coming up with the Public Service Board in July.Lukas Snelling with Energize Vermont is among those appealing the storm water permits. “We are worried that this event is a sign of things to come,” Snelling said in a recent interview. He is concerned that the storm water controls are insufficient and poorly designed for the area due to its steep slopes and for other reasons. He, like others, questions whether or not the site impacted nearby water quality near and if the storm caused a larger volume of water at the base of the mountain due to the run-off.According to Dotty Schnure, spokesperson for GMP, the silt fences are cleaned up and the erosion is repaired. Soil and debris from off the project site flowed into the culvert, which blocked it and caused flooding problems. Engineering for a new culvert is underway. Ditches are now lined with rocks to prevent erosion. Green Mountain Power is in the midst of constructing a 21-wind turbine farm on Lowell Mountain. The project remains on schedule with completion planned for the end of the year.