Rick Webb | A lot of hot air?
Highland New Wind Development declares itself to be the “Greenest Wind Farm in the World.” See: Highland New Wind website. A month ago, HNWD development made national news when its public-relations firm announced that Virginia’s first utility-scale wind project was ready to start construction. That was a blatant misrepresentation. HNWD does not have a building permit, does not have an Erosion and Sediment Control permit, does not have approval from the FAA, has not satisfied the permit conditions imposed by the State Corporation Commission (SCC), and has not obtained an Endangered Species Act permit.
In fact, June 12, 2009 was the first time since that reviewing agencies or anyone else had an opportunity to see an actual site plan for the project. And HNWD’s conditional use permit expires in August. And the SCC permit expires in December.
So, how has this eleventh-hour submission been received?
“What they have presented is completely unacceptable. . . . They show contempt, a lack of respect for the county.” – Highland Supervisor David Blanchard
“The applicant has their perspective on things they need to do to be compliant, and the county has another perspective. . . . I was a little surprised, given the amount of time they’ve had to do it, at the lack of thoroughness.” – Highland Supervisor Robin Sullenberger
“I firmly think what they submitted was premature . . . . I see a lot of things wrong with it.” – Highland Supervisor Jerry Rexrode
“Based on our review, we believe that the plans and narratives are incomplete and lack sufficient detail needed to perform a final review. We have identified (at a minimum) the following  items which need to be addressed prior to a final review.” – correspondence from Mattern and Craig, an engineering firm hired by Highland County to review HNWD’s Erosion and Sediment Control plan
“Just this week, all three supervisors expressed concern and surprise that HNWD can’t seem to even put its turbines in the right state on the map.”- Recorder editorial commenting on a HNWD site plan error that located one or two of the 19 proposed turbines in West Virginia
“Inadequacies and inaccuracies of the Erosion and Sediment Control Plan and Stormwater Management Calculations by Blackwell Engineering (HNWD’s consultant) have resulted in misleading results provided in the stormwater management calculations.” – Dr. Pamela Dodd, a consulting hydrogeologist reviewing the plan for Laurel Fork landowners
“Laurel Fork is a pristine stream populated with wild brook trout . . . . Given the misrepresentations that characterize Highland Wind’s maps and statements it would seem that a review and assessment of those materials by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Department of Conservations and Recreation and Department of Environmental Quality would protect the county from liability associated with making a decision based on erroneous information.” – John Ross, Chair, Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited
“Five of ten turbine locations proposed for Red Oak Knob . . . are either in or at the edge of areas that were forested in 2006 . . . contradicting the findings and basis of the conditional use permit and claims by the developer.” – Rick Webb, Highland County resident, in correspondence with Highland County officials
“Some of the errors in it are very suspicious . . . . Others simply demonstrate the lack of any real effort to comply with the requirements of the conditional use permit or SCC order.” – Ches Goodall, downstream landowner, in correspondence with Highland County officials
And this list could go on.
So what’s up with HNWD? Why did HNWD seek and submit a low-bid Erosion and Sediment Control Plan at the last minute?
One theory is that HNWD seeks to demonstrate to potential investors that it has the situation and the decision makers, including Highland County officials and the regulatory agencies, under control. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Rick Webb heads up Virginia Wind. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.