Beech-Nut plant clears final hurdle

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed its review of plans for the $124 million Hero Group/Beech

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed its review of plans for the $124 million Hero Group/Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp.’s baby food manufacturing plant, marking the completion of the final hurdle in the regulatory process, officials said.

“We have offered them a permit,” said John R. Connell, permit manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers upstate regulatory field office.

Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said he had received the draft permit that spells out the process by which the Hero Group will mitigate disturbing 1.19 acres of wetlands at the Florida Business Park.

The company intends to build a 550,000-square-foot plant at an industrial park just east of the Target Distribution Center in the town.

Hero/Beech-Nut spokesman Earl Wells said the company hadn’t received official word of the permit’s approval on Thursday.

“If that’s the case, we’re certainly very, very happy,” Wells said.

The site is composed of about 142 acres with construction to be on roughly 84 acres, according to the project’s environmental impact statement.

The Florida Planning Board last month gave approval for construction to start on the facility, but one of several conditions required the area subject to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to remain untouched until the federal permit was issued.

Signatures on the draft permit represent the final steps in the regulatory process, Rose said.

“Basically, this is an extremely positive sign,” Rose said.

The project is expected to create 135 new jobs while keeping 350 existing positions within Montgomery County.

The Hero Group and its subsidiary Beech-Nut sought a new location to replace its aging facility in Canajoharie and smaller facility in Fort Plain and consolidate manufacturing and administrative operations. Beech-Nut maintains offices in Latham.

Rose on Wednesday said he was collecting required signatures on the draft permit and planned to send the documents overnight to the Army Corps of Engineers’ New York City office to conclude matters.

The project will cause the loss of 1.19 acres of wetlands and intermittent streams, Connell said. To reduce the impact, the company will establish or create 1.6 acres of wetlands, Connell said. The new wetlands will be situated in two spots: one to the north of the planned building and the other to the southeast corner of the site.

The company will donate $80,000 to the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District for local stream restoration projects, and another 47 acres on the site will be placed in a conservation easement, Connell said.

Connell said in the case of the wetlands replacement, it’s typical for developers to be required to create more wetlands than they’re destroying because of the difficulty in successfully mitigating land changes.

Together with about 140 acres of land from the Target Distribution Facility to the west of the planned Beech-Nut site, there will be roughly 170 acres of lands set aside for conservation purposes, Connell said.

Connell said it’s difficult in the entire northeastern United States to find a 50-acre patch of land that doesn’t have wetlands on it.

For this type of project, Connell said the 1.19 acres of wetlands to be destroyed is a small amount compared to other projects.

Categories: Schenectady County

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