To assist with solar upgrades, Montague reduces lease costs owed by power company

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 07-26-2023 7:52 PM

MONTAGUE — The Selectboard has agreed to reduce the lease costs of the power company operating solar arrays on town property on Sandy Lane in exchange for the company having capped a 163-acre burn dump.

The town will now share an equal cost with Kearsarge Energy — up to $170,000 — for improvements required by a corrective action order from the state Department of Environmental Protection and pay that cost over five years through the lease reduction. Town Administrator Steve Ellis told the Selectboard on Monday that the power company’s two-phase project is “largely finished” and the design order is part of the final closing process.

Ellis said Kearsarge Energy built a 6-megawatt facility on the land next to Judd Wire as the project’s first phase a few years ago, while the second and final phase consists of a 3-megawatt build at the site of the burn dump.

At the heart of the corrective action order, Ellis said, was the addition of what might be best described as a permanent, secondary stormwater retention structure.

“To visualize the structure, think of a pond that is generally empty when there is extended dry weather, but serves to capture water and thereby slow its movement down the slope of the cap as it enters adjacent areas,” he wrote in an email. “The lower edge of the temporary secondary retention structure — which was installed last year — is made of compacted mulch.”

It forms a dam wall that water then gradually filters through and out into the adjacent area, away from the former dump.

Ellis explained there is a temporary secondary retention pond because the original cap design included a single retention area, but it was determined after installation that it could not fully handle the volume of run-off. The second retention structure was installed while plans and funding were lined up to install the more durable, permanent structure, which is what is being constructed through this agreement.

The town administrator also updated the Selectboard on July storm impacts relative to the Sandy Lane property, saying that the stormwater retention setup “functions very well but is challenged when you have 500-plus-year storms week after week, as we’ve been experiencing.”

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“As we look at the improvements that we’re making,” he said, “these will, when implemented, solidify that end of the burn dump and hopefully ensure that we don’t have problems such as those we’ve been working to mitigate over the course of the last couple of weeks.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.

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