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Wildlife Biologists in the Agency of Natural Resources express concerns about the state's apparent agreement to meet the project sponsors timetable, low pay for biologists to be hired for the project, and how to deal with these concerns.


Subject: Southern VT Natural Gas Pipeline

From: Forrest Hammond, Agency of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist

To: Scott Darling, Director of Wildlife, Agency of Natural Resources

Date: Thursday, March 4, 1999, 12:44 p.m.

You appeared so busy yesterday that I didn,t try to tell you about the meeting we had yesterday with the rest of the agency representatives and the Army Corp. of Engineers on the proposed Southern VT Natural Gas Pipeline project. Thought you might like an update.

The applicants have tight deadlines and apparently the State has committed to trying to work within their time constraints. At our first meeting they wanted us to choose the best route from the route alternatives they brought with them to the meeting. We let them know that our review process takes a little longer than that. This apparently generated a letter of complaint to the Agency that we came to the meeting unprepared and are slowing the process.

At this second meeting we discussed how the planning process will work and the need to identify issues and concerns. Everett [Marshall, Data Manager, Non-Game and Natural Heritage Program], Mark [Ferguson, Zoologist, Non-Game and Natural Heritage Program], Shawn [Good, Wildlife Biologist], and I will consolidate our perspective issues and concerns before another Agency meeting to be held later this month.

Peter LaFlamme told us that the Agency was prepared to ask for the applicant to pay for 6 Limited Service Positions (hired at P.G. 21) to help with our review of the project. The plan is for a Project Coordinator, a Clerical Typist, and 2 biologists and 2 engineers. The applicant would provide their own Non-game Species Specialist.

When asked for more details about the biologists Peter said that because of the low pay they would undoubtedly be biologist generalists fresh out of school with little work experience. Each would expect to have some knowledge of wetland delineation. T & E inventory, fish species habitat requirements, and wildlife habitat requirements as well as knowledge of habitat restoration techniques for each of the respective fields. Everett, Peter Keibel and I all expressed reservations regarding these two positions being able to do all that. We told him that it will still require a great deal of our time to supervise them and still oversee the project.

I requested that the team format be changed to provide our Department with the resources to hire our own biologist that would assist in overseeing the two Agency "generalist" biologists. The position could also help free up our time to attend meetings and do project review by doing some of our routine work on other projects. I explained that the Pipeline Project is occurring in a region of the state where we are already understaffed because of a vacant Fisheries/Wildlife Technician position out of the Pittsford office. I told him that if we could fill that position for the expected 2-year life of the project then it would help compensate for some of the man days our Department is going to have to put into the project. At this point at least 3 of us have to attend every meeting and review every issue.

I don,t know if Peter LaFlamme took my suggestion seriously. My impression is that he will ignore it. Should we pursue it further? If so, how?


Copyright © 1999 by Vermonters for a Clean Environment
Updated: October 4, 1999