Major snowmobile trail threatened due to Avangrid Renewable’s new desire for paved access to turbines | Lewis County

MARTINSBURG — A bid by renewable energy giant Avangrid to pave a seasonal road that’s considered one of the most important and frequently used snowmobile trails on Tug Hill has raised concerns among some, hope among others and ultimately the first of many discussions of the idea.

Representatives from the city of Martinsburg, including Supervisor Terrence Thisse and Superintendent of Highways Tyler Jones, snowmobile clubs and county officials, including Board Chairman Lawrence Dolhof, County Executive Ryan Piche and lawmaker Joshua Leviker, met last week to discuss the bid made by Avangrid’s Roaring Brook wind farm. Plant Manager Tod Nash via Mr. Jones and discussed at the city’s Jan. 5 organizational meeting.

“Highways Superintendent Jones reported that Todd Nash of the Roaring Brook Wind Project is offering to pay to have Flat Rock Road to Joe’s Pond Road – the town line – paved,” the minutes read. “No paving will be done on Carey Road.”

That distance, according to Mr. Leviker, who is also a member of a snowmobile club and president of the county snowmobile association, is about 3.5 miles of seasonal road trail and some of the most heavily used trails and crucial to the whole system. as it connects the lower trails to the upper trails.

Mr. Leviker and a number of other people in snowmobile-related clubs or business owners gathered at a meeting to discuss how to grow the snowmobile industry in the county with the House of Commerce and the Industrial Development Agency last week and spoke about the negative impact closing this section of trail would have on recreational sport and business revenue throughout the county, but especially on Tug Hill, which is a prime snowmobiling destination due to its excessive and regular annual snowfall.

Some people at the meeting said they were perplexed by Avangrid’s promise not to interfere with the snowmobile during the development phase of the project.

For Mr. Thisse, however, Avangrid’s offer is an opportunity to avoid problems other cities have faced with seasonal residents on low-maintenance roads deciding to stay year-round.

“As I have explained to several people … the problem of minimum maintenance roads has not yet been solved and the experience of the western city of Turin indicates that if we had someone who wanted live on one of these minimum maintenance roads, we could possibly lose the case and have to plow the road,” Mr. Thisse said. “With that in mind, if someone offers to open a road for us so that we can plow it, we as a city council have to take that into account, it’s either do it now or wait 10 years until someone wants to live there and the taxpayers pay for it. price. And that’s the way to look at it.”

West of Turin had to pave a road designated as a “minimum maintenance road”, such as Flat Rock Road, because a resident who bought land and built a seasonal house decided to stay in the house year-round and asked the city to plow the road. When the city refused, a lengthy lawsuit and appeal ensued and ended in favor of the resident, forcing the city to clear the road of snow.

To do this without damaging the snowplow trucks, the road had to be paved.

From the city’s perspective, that doesn’t mean a snowmobile can’t drive through the area, but they will “suggest” that Avangrid could allow snowmobilers to use the company’s extensive access roads connecting their 20 turbines between them as well as cleared tracks. areas around power lines for a bypass trail.

“The city council considered that there were alternatives. They may not be the easiest, but there are alternatives and the town of Martinsburg would be in part of the same situation as other towns in the county that have snowmobile trails on private property,” he said. he declares.

The Valley Snow Travelers snowmobile club, which maintains the Flat Rock Road trail, does not consider the suggested “alternative” to be a real alternative and club president Joshua Stoffle said he does not understand why Avangrid suddenly needed the road plowed and paved when he knew the weather and road conditions when he picked the location and said he wouldn’t disturb the trail.

“I have nothing against renewables, I’m all for it, but there are other wind turbines out there (on Tug Hill), a different company, and they’re not blazing trails,” a- he declared. “They have equipment to make it happen and these guys (Avangrid) have equipment to make it happen too, without plowing the road. By installing (the turbines), they used this equipment to enter, so why can’t they use this equipment to enter now? »

He also believes the economic impact on local businesses will go much further than the Flat Rock Inn, but will affect businesses all the way to Barnes Corners.

“As far as I know, this is not a done deal,” Mr Stoffle said. “But in my opinion, I think it will affect snowmobiling significantly.”

Mr. Levi needs the wind business.

Initially, county officials at the meeting said the road would not be built until 2023 if that were to happen, so there is plenty of time to work through the process, but for now negotiations will continue.

Avangrid representatives did not respond to calls for comment.

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