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Salisbury composting, biogas project gets local OK

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Development Review Board has given conditional approval to a new business off Shard Villa Road that will turn cow manure into cow bedding and compost products. The new agricultural enterprise has the ultimate goal of making biogas that would be funneled to Middlebury College.
The venture is the brainchild of Integrated Energy Solutions (IES) and the Goodrich Farm. Their plan calls for the eventual installation of a bio-digester system on that farm that would extract methane from manure (sourced on-site and from other farms) and convert it into a biogas that would be piped to the college, which would use it to replace 640,000 gallons of number 6 fuel oil annually from its energy mix.
The proposed biogas operation will have to be permitted separately by the Vermont Public Service Board through the Act 248 review process. But in the meantime, IES and Goodrich Farm officials have secured local permission for a related venture called “Panther Bedding and Compost.” This will involve construction of three buildings and equipment that will allow for cow manure to be pressed in a manner that will produce solids for cow bedding and compost, with a liquid residue that will be applied to farm fields.
“It’s a great thing for the farm and a great thing for the environment,” said Gary Freeguard, general contractor and manager for the new operation, which could be under construction as soon as this fall. The proposal must still undergo Act 250 review.
Goodrich Farm is a dairy operation on 400 acres. It is located in the town’s Low Density Residential zoning district. The Panther Bedding and Compost business will require construction of two utility buildings and an enclosed compost pad, along with underground piping and manure holding tanks. One of the buildings, which will be 30 feet wide, 80 feet long and 23 feet tall, will house processing equipment. The other building will be a pump house and will be 24 feet wide, 36 feet long and 18 feet tall.
The concrete compost pad will be 120 feet wide and 140 feet long.
Plans call for the business to be served by a new driveway that will be 950 feet long and 18 feet wide.
Neighbors had expressed concerns about potential aesthetic, traffic, safety and odor issues with the project. Associated trucking is expected to affect a two-mile stretch of Shard Villa Road, from the Goodrich Farm to the Salisbury-Middlebury town line. It is expected to generate around 10 truck trips per day, 286 days per year, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
But IES and Goodrich Farm officials said the new truck traffic will be offset by a reduction in heavy manure-spreading vehicles that have been spreading on area fields. The new project will allow for the liquid manure to be infused into the land by hose directly from the farm lagoons. The new trucks, according to the IES application, will use conventional, over-road tires instead of a manure spreader’s oversized balloon tires that can be noisier.
The cow bedding and compost will be sold in bulk, so there won’t be packaging. Panther will either deliver the product to the customer, or arrange for pick-up.
Salisbury’s Development Review Board reviewed the application, listened to public testimony and granted the project a conditional permit for the Panther Bedding and Compost operation. Conditions included that associated truck traffic be limited to six round-trips per day; and that a minimum of five parking spaces be provided at the site.
Ernie Goodrich of Goodrich Farm was pleased to see the application earn local approval.
“It’s one more hurdle that we’re through,” he said. “(The project) received a lot of support, and we appreciate that support.”
Barrie Bailey was one of several neighbors who had voiced concerns about potential impacts from the IES/Goodrich Farm project. She credited the applicants for assuaging most of the neighbors’ concerns, to the extent that the DRB public hearings were very smooth.
“I think a majority of people are pleased with the outcome,” Bailey said. “The communication has been terrific.”
Freeguard echoed that sentiment. He said IES President Dan Smith had three productive meetings with neighbors prior to the public hearing process.
“(Smith) said from the beginning, ‘If people don’t want this, we’re not going to proceed with it,’” Freeguard said.
Smith could not be reached for comment for this article.
The applicants are hoping for continued smooth sailing on the permitting front, as they move to the state’s Act 250 and Act 248 reviews. If successful, IES and Goodrich Farm would be able to install three methane digesters and a 4-inch pipeline to manufacture and send biogas to Middlebury College. This would also enhance the farm’s ability to de-liquefy the manure for the cow bedding and compost. Current plans call for Vermont Gas to install the 4-inch pipeline from the Goodrich Farm and within the public rights-of-way along Shard Villa Road, Three Mile Bridge Road and Creek Road to ultimately connect with the 41-mile Addison Natural Gas Project in Middlebury. And Freeguard added IES is committed to pursuing the pipeline to Middlebury College even if the Addison Natural Gas Project does not become a reality.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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