February, 2017

NRPC finds Swanton Wind Project 
does not conform with Regional Plan

At its Board Meeting on February 22, the Board of Commissioners of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission found that the Swanton Wind proposal does not conform to portions of the regional plan. The project proposes seven wind turbines up to 499 feet in height on Rocky Ridge in Swanton. The project's application for a Certificate of Public Good is currently being reviewed by the Vermont Public Service Board.
The Board of Commissioners voted to make this finding upon recommendation of the Commission's Policy and Project Review Committee and consultation with the Commission's attorney. The Board found that the project did not conform to the 2015 regional plan in several areas including natural resources, aesthetics and orderly development of the region. "The Committee was thoughtful in its review of the project's application materials and provided a reasoned recommendation to the full Board," said Bob Buermann, Board Chair.
Catherine Dimitruk, Executive Director explained that the Board's finding will guide the Commission's participation in the permit process. "The Commission's finding and any subsequent testimony is advisory. The Public Service Board will be required to give it 'due consideration' in their review of the project."
Northwest Regional Planning Commission serves Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. Two representatives to the Board are appointed by each of the municipalities in the region. Vermont law gives regional planning commissions the ability to participate in Section 248 permit proceedings.  

NRPC Board Recommends 
Reallocation of Missisquoi Bridge Funds

At its Board meeting on February 22, the Northwest Regional Planning Commission Board of Commissioners voted to recommend that remaining construction funds from the Missisquoi Bridge project set aside for potential causeway removal be reallocated to other transportation-water quality projects that would reduce phosphorus inputs into Missisquoi Bay.
The Northwest Regional Planning Commission has long supported removal of the Missisquoi Bay causeway. More recently, concurrent removal of the Carry Bay causeway became part of the policy. The Northwest Regional Plan 2015-2023 includes a policy: "Support the removal of the Missisquoi and Carry Bay causeways."
Bob Buermann, Chair of the NRPC Board of Commissioners explained that "this recommendation does not change NRPC's support for removal of Missisquoi and Carry Bay causeways in the long term, but acknowledges that in the short term the earmark is more effectively spent on other water quality improvement projects."
Catherine Dimitruk, Executive Director of NRPC noted that "the Lake Champlain TMDL and Act 64 were implemented after completion of the regional plan. Both require major investments in water quality improvement projects, focusing on removing phosphorus and sediment from entering Lake Champlain. Missisquoi Bay has among the largest phosphorus reduction targets. Commissioners considered this information in making this recommendation." The recently released analysis by the Vermont State Treasurer identifies a clean water compliance funding gap of $1.25 billion over 20 years (Act 64 Clean Water Report, January 15, 2017).
The Missisquoi Bay Bridge is located on Route 78 in Swanton and Alburgh. Following the construction of the new shore-to-shore bridge in 2007, the former drawbridge was removed along with 330 feet of the causeway; the remaining causeway was left in place. There is approximately $4.12 million remaining in the federal earmark that was used to fund the Missisquoi Bay bridge project. The $4.12 million earmark must be matched with 20% nonfederal funds. VTrans must decide whether or not the funds remaining from the earmark should be used to remove more of the causeway or be repurposed for investment in other transportation system programming. A study on this question was requested by the Vermont Legislature in Act 40 of 2015 and a report was released in Fall 2016 that recommended using the funds to remove an additional 330 feet of causeway.
Buermann said that he hopes the Agency of Transportation considers the NRPC input. "NRPC is ready to work with VTrans and the Agency of Natural Resources to share ideas on how best to apply the earmark funds to accelerate transportation projects that improve water quality."

Efficiency Vermont Launches Speakers Bureau

Efficiency Vermont is now offering free workshops for community groups, including municipalities, designed to help Vermonters make energy improvements. Each workshop addresses how a particular technology works, associated economics, and available technical and financial resources. Efficiency Vermont will provide an energy expert to deliver the presentation, guidance on how to effectively organize a workshop, and educational and public outreach materials. The following educational workshops are currently available:
  • Button Up Vermont: how homes lose energy and primary opportunities for air sealing and insulation.
  • Cold Climate Heat Pumps: the latest in heat pump technology, the relative economics compared to other fuel sources, and successful case studies.
  • Mobile Home Efficiency: improvements unique to mobile homes, with a focus on DIY opportunities.
  • Modern Wood Heating: how wood pellet central heating systems work, and the relative cost and savings compared to other systems.
  • Slash Your Energy Bills: introductory workshop on reducing energy bills through low-cost efficiency improvements, weatherization, and more.
  • Zero Energy Homes: the path toward a zero energy home with energy efficiency, heat pumps, and solar.
To schedule a workshop, sign up here on the Efficiency Vermont website or call 1 888-921-5990.

Northwest Regional Planning Commission
Address: 75 Fairfield Street, St. Albans, VT 05478
Phone: 802.524.5958      Fax: 802.527.2948     Website: www.nrpcvt.com