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Somerset County wind project sparks opposition

Opposition to wind farms has been growing around the state -- even as state leaders try to make Maine a pioneer in harnessing wind power. Now a new opposition group has formed in western Maine to fight what could be one of the largest projects: a 48-wind turbine development south of the Bigelow Preserve.

Opposition to wind farms has been growing around the state -- even as state leaders try to make Maine a pioneer in harnessing wind power. Now a new opposition group has formed in western Maine to fight what could be one of the largest projects: a 48-wind turbine development south of the Bigelow Preserve.

"I am so concerned for the health of my children and my husband and myself. I'm afraid that the wind tower sounds and vibrations that they make will be unbearable for my family," says Heidi Emery, who lives in Highland Plantation in Somerset County, where developer Highland Wind plans to clear several hundred acres to build its $230 million project.

She's among The Friends of Highland Mountains who gathered to Portland to call on other Mainers to protect the ridgelines where the turbines would be sited -- views cherished by hikers on the Applachian Trail. "It's the lakes, and the ponds and the nature and the feeling of being somewhere pure and natural," Emery says. "But there's nothing pure or natural about wind power. And it feels like the death of Highland is coming, and I feel so helpless. Highland is the way life should be."

In recent months, scores... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Opposition to wind farms has been growing around the state -- even as state leaders try to make Maine a pioneer in harnessing wind power. Now a new opposition group has formed in western Maine to fight what could be one of the largest projects: a 48-wind turbine development south of the Bigelow Preserve.

"I am so concerned for the health of my children and my husband and myself. I'm afraid that the wind tower sounds and vibrations that they make will be unbearable for my family," says Heidi Emery, who lives in Highland Plantation in Somerset County, where developer Highland Wind plans to clear several hundred acres to build its $230 million project.

She's among The Friends of Highland Mountains who gathered to Portland to call on other Mainers to protect the ridgelines where the turbines would be sited -- views cherished by hikers on the Applachian Trail. "It's the lakes, and the ponds and the nature and the feeling of being somewhere pure and natural," Emery says. "But there's nothing pure or natural about wind power. And it feels like the death of Highland is coming, and I feel so helpless. Highland is the way life should be."

In recent months, scores of residents living near the proposed project have been voicing their concerns at meetings with the wind developers, former Maine Gov. Angus King and former public broadcasting executive Robert Gardiner.

But as wind developers worked on their permit application, which they submitted in late January, residents have been expanding their opposition campaign beyond the region. They are circulating an online petition urging the Land Use Regulation Commission, or LURC, to call a public hearing on the project.

Alan Michka, who lives in nearby Lexington Township, chairs the group. "This land is part of Maine's heritage. All the people in Maine -- not just the people in the rural communities that are going to be next to them -- will suffer as a result of the development of these very special places."

For his part, wind developer King says that he welcomes a public hearing on the project, which he says creates renewable energy and lessens reliance on foreign oil. "It's not good enough to say I'm for doing something about global climate change but just not near me. If the worst thing that results from this project, is that people look out from the top of Mt. Bigelow and they see some windmills, I think that's a fairly low price."

King says his company, Independence Wind, is partnering with Bayroot, a timberland management company which owns the 15,000-plus acre parcel. He says the site is perfect for the project because of the wind generated there, and an existing transmission line running through the property.

While King acknowledges the wind turbines will be hard to miss -- they would be 400 feet high if you count the blades -- he says it will not create the noise residents are worried about. He adds that the closest year-long residences are at least a mile away, though he acknowledged that two camps are located closer than that. "And even those, the sound level, the predicted sound level is well below the state standards, but everyone else is far enough so there just won't be those issues."

King also says that the project holds an economic benefit for the region. He estimates it will pay for more than 90 percent of taxes for Highland Plantation, and generate $450,000 annually for Somerset County.

This pleases Jim Batey, executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Corporation. "Certatinly not many long-term jobs, perhaps, from a wind power project, but there's certainly long-term tax implications for a community."

If approved by LURC, the Highland Wind project would be one of the largest in Maine. The Kibby Mountain wind project is approved for 44 wind turbines but is seeking an expansion.

Of the six large wind power projects LURC has reviewed, it has denied only one. Catherine Carroll is LURC's director. "The one that didn't get approved was a project located in Reddington Township, Franklin County, west of Carrabbasett Valley. They made a finding that it would have undue adverse effects on the natural character of the area."

Carroll predicts that the commission will hold a public hearing on the Highland wind project, given the hundreds of calls and letters the office has received on the matter. King says if approvals go through, his company hopes to start construction by this fall, and be operational by the end of 2011.

To view the application for the Highland wind project, click here.


Source: http://www.mpbn.net/News/Ma...

FEB 11 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/24591-somerset-county-wind-project-sparks-opposition
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