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John Harrigan: Smoke and mirrors on wind power

If all goes to an outside developer's plan, hikers on the Cohos Trail, and just about anyone else visiting the vast Phillips Brook and Nash Stream tracts, will soon be looking at a string of horizon-dominating 400-foot wind towers, supported by a massive construction and support infrastructure (i.e., roads and concrete bases), along the ridgelines of one of New Hampshire's last great wild places. ...this proposal is an abomination, the selling of a priceless resource for little or no direct return, a hop-on-the-bandwagon case of bad supposedly "green" decision-making if ever there was one.

The Cohos Trail is one of New Hampshire's many assets, drawing on the beauty and wildness of the North Country. It winds for 160 miles -- 110 of them in Coos County -- from the White Mountains all the way to Canada. Traversing public and private woodlands, it skirts or reaches much of the region's high country. Its environs are home to loons, moose, eagles, fishers and bobcats, and the rare pine marten and Bicknell's thrush.

If all goes to an outside developer's plan, hikers on the Cohos Trail, and just about anyone else visiting the vast Phillips Brook and Nash Stream tracts, will soon be looking at a string of horizon-dominating 400-foot wind towers, supported by a massive construction and support infrastructure (i.e., roads and concrete bases), along the ridgelines of one of New Hampshire's last great wild places.

Yet, this proposed development in New Hampshire's already scarce and fragmented high country seems to be hardly a blip on the radar screen for the public and the media. After all, it's perceived as a "green" win-win project. Who can be against renewable, non-carbon-based wind power? Especially... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Cohos Trail is one of New Hampshire's many assets, drawing on the beauty and wildness of the North Country. It winds for 160 miles -- 110 of them in Coos County -- from the White Mountains all the way to Canada. Traversing public and private woodlands, it skirts or reaches much of the region's high country. Its environs are home to loons, moose, eagles, fishers and bobcats, and the rare pine marten and Bicknell's thrush.

If all goes to an outside developer's plan, hikers on the Cohos Trail, and just about anyone else visiting the vast Phillips Brook and Nash Stream tracts, will soon be looking at a string of horizon-dominating 400-foot wind towers, supported by a massive construction and support infrastructure (i.e., roads and concrete bases), along the ridgelines of one of New Hampshire's last great wild places.

Yet, this proposed development in New Hampshire's already scarce and fragmented high country seems to be hardly a blip on the radar screen for the public and the media. After all, it's perceived as a "green" win-win project. Who can be against renewable, non-carbon-based wind power? Especially when it could generate enough power for 33,000 homes?

-- First, the power won't stay in the North Country. It'll go into the massive New England grid.

-- Aside from short-lived construction, the project won't create many jobs -- perhaps fewer than a dozen.

-- The wind power will use up most of the remaining capacity of the North Country's transmission system, meaning that without major powerline expansion (and who'll pay for that?) there'll be none left for future, much more labor-intensive, wood-fueled plants.

-- The 33 towers, each 400 feet high, will dominate 15 miles of ridgeline and involve 58 acres of above-2,700-ft. habitat.

-- Roads, culverts and bridges to build and maintain the system will affect 14 acres of wetlands, sugar-coated by the hollow promise of "mitigation" (anyone who's observed this process knows what that means).

-- The project will represent the largest permanent change ever (most of the area has been logged many times, but in lower places, and trees grow back) in a priceless tract of land near the protected Nash Stream and Bunnell Forest lands -- the very tract that our conservation community has been scrambling to preserve before it's gone.

So where are the state's environmental watchdogs (DES, Fish and Game) on this proposal? I don't know, and nobody else seems to either.

But what I do know is that this proposal is an abomination, the selling of a priceless resource for little or no direct return, a hop-on-the-bandwagon case of bad supposedly "green" decision-making if ever there was one. And the site evaluation committee hearings, slated to begin March 9 and lead to a decision by mid-April, seem to be the public's only shot.

John Harrigan's outdoors column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His address is Box 39, Colebrook, N.H. 03576; e-mail him at hooligan@ncia.net.


Source: http://www.unionleader.com/...

FEB 22 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19198-john-harrigan-smoke-and-mirrors-on-wind-power
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