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Joyce Endee

Groveton mill property attracting potential buyers

Brooklyn Dam hydro project in consultation phase

January 25, 2012
GROVETON — Both wood pellet producers and potential biomass investors have expressed interest in looking at the former paper mill properties, Groveton Acquisitions LLC spokesman Jerry Epstein reported in a Friday telephone interview. The rising price of oil is sparking more interest in wood pellet production, and generating electricity from a renewable resource, such as biomass, remains an attractive possibility, said Epstein, noting that he has been in touch with Jeff Hayes of North Country Council which has a $250,000 EDA grant to explore viable reuses of the property.

Greater interest in the site and its buildings has led Epstein to extend the deadline before he and his business partner William Firestone of Capital Recovery Group will decide whether or not to tear all or a substantial portion of the existing mill buildings down.

"I'm encouraged," Epstein said. "I just don't want to carry the buildings through another winter."

He is concerned, however, Epstein said, that 5440 Hydro Inc., has filed notification of its intent to file for an application for a new license, including pre-application and consultation, using the traditional licensing process (TLP), in connection with the non-operational Brooklyn Dam hydro facility on the Upper Ammonoosuc River, which Groveton Acquisitions owns.

These documents were filed on Jan. 17 with the Federal Energy Commission (FERC), and a legal notice was published in last week's issue of this newspaper. The filings are available at FERC's e-library online or at Ampersand Gilman Energy LLC at 35 Riverside Avenue in Gilman, Vt.

The energy company first started the FERC process on July 9, 2010.

Lutz Leogers, who maintains an office in Boston, Mass., as well as in Toronto, Canada, is listed as 5440 Hydro's project manger. Hydropower expert and site manager Greg Cloutier of Lancaster is also knowledgeable about these filings. Should the Brooklyn Dam mini-hydro project go forward, Cloutier is "potentially a partner," Leogers explained.

Epstein is concerned, however, that 5440 Hydro Inc.'s filings and interest in reviving the existing Brooklyn Dam hydro facility could serve to discourage some potential investors who would prefer to control the entire site. The Dam was built 100 years ago in 1912.

Having someone looking at redeveloping the hydro facility and filing a site plan could is "almost an encumbrance" on the Groveton Acquisitions' property, explained Epstein, referring to the TLP as a "back door" approach.

Cloutier said that he and Leogers are simply beginning a several-months-long consultation process to see if the project makes economic sense.

"I live here in the community; there is no way that I would do anything that would harm or interfere with the sale and redevelopment of that property," Cloutier explained. "Some investors who have looked at the property have liked the idea of developing the dam themselves; others seemed pleased to know someone else was interested."

In any case, Cloutier explained, the consultation process would not result in a construction permit being issued.

He, Bill Allin of Lancaster, and investor A.J. Golding own and operate the Weston Dam, one-half-mile downstream from the defunct Brooklyn Dam hydro facility. It would make sense if the hydro at the upper dam were to be reactivated that it be operated synergistically in conjunction with the Weston Dam, Cloutier said.

If the project moves forward, the plan would be to install two 300-kilowatt (kW) vertical Kaplan turbines, with an estimated capacity of 600 kW and an estimated annual generation of 2,800 megawatt-hours.

Consultation would include Groveton Acquisitions LLC, MOP Environmental Solutions of Bath that was unable to find financing to go forward with a purchase and sale agreement, and Bob Chapman of Chapman Scrap Metal Recycling, as well as a number of federal and state agencies, including: USFWS in Concord; EPA in Boston, Mass.; NOA Administration in Gloucester, Mass.; US Army Corps of Engineers in Concord, Mass.; state DES, state Fish and Game; DRED; Division of Historic Resources; Office of Energy and Planning.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, FERC issued licenses to re-energize the Brooklyn Dam site, but the plant was not put in operation and the licenses expired.

However, using previous license applications, 5440 Hydro, Inc. has gathered and reviewed comprehensive technical data, environmental information, drawings, and other relevant information, including notes on past consultations with federal and state agencies. The applicant intends to file for a Minor Water Power Project, which offers advantages to small projects.

Cloutier, Leogers, and 5440 Hydro are also working together on the 4.85-megawatt Ampersand hydro-facility at the Gilman mill on the Connecticut River, which involves installing a fish passage.

Cloutier is also working on a 2.27-megawatt hydroelectric project in Troy, N.Y.

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