Vermonters for a Clean Environment have filed a complaint in US District Court challenging the Forest Service’s planned permit for 15 new wind turbines in the Green Mountain National Forest. The challenge includes several issues, but centers on the visual and sound impact of the new turbines on the nearby George D. Aiken Wilderness. Sound monitoring and modeling indicates that the boundary of the Wilderness is one of two areas in which the new turbines are likely to be audible above existing background sound levels (which includes sound from several older turbines near the new project site).
The recent court filing is not yet available on the group’s website, but an earlier appeal submitted to the Forest Service contains many of the same arguments. A central point is expressed this way:
If the mechanical sound of the wind turbines can be heard within the George Aiken Wilderness, it is no longer a wilderness, plain and simple. See, e.g., 16 U.S.C. § 1131(c) (requiring that the area “retain[ ] its primeval character” and requiring that the “the imprint of man’s work [should be] substantially unnoticeable”).
The complaint suggests that ridgelines in the Wilderness will have more visual impact than the Forest Service documented, and there was not a sufficient assessment of how far into the wilderness sounds may be audible. The permitting documents estimates that turbines will be 5-7dB louder than background sound at the Wilderness boundary, and will be less audible as you move deeper into the wilderness; these figures are long-term (day-long or night-long) average sound levels.