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Eternal Impact - Commercial Wind Farm Would Damage Maine Wilderness

The costs are “the loss of the mountains,” said Dr. Dain Trafton of Phillips, Maine, speaking for the friends group to the Original Irregular newspaper. “Is it worthwhile introducing this huge industrial plant into these beautiful mountains when, in fact, very little power will be produced, very few emissions will be avoided, and very little economic benefit will come to the area?”

Photo simulation from Sugarloaf Cirque

Photo simulation from Sugarloaf Cirque showing the 330-foot wind turbines with 260-foot diameter blades, proposed on the Redington Pond Range of Maine. Photo simulation by Matt Robinson.


After more than a decade of false starts, the Endless Energy Company intends to apply to develop a commercial wind-energy facility on the Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble, two undeveloped peaks in the remote western Maine mountains. The site is just more than one mile from the Appalachian Trail where it traverses the Saddleback and Crocker ranges.

In late September, the developer filed pre-application information with the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), the state entity that must issue a permit for the project to be built. Indications are that the developer will file its complete application for the project in mid-December 2005.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, in partnership with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, is asking members and supporters to write letters opposing the project and to make contributions to the organization to support its legal efforts surrounding this project and other threats to the trail. Such funds are used to organize volunteers, and to hire... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Photo simulation from Sugarloaf Cirque

Photo simulation from Sugarloaf Cirque showing the 330-foot wind turbines with 260-foot diameter blades, proposed on the Redington Pond Range of Maine. Photo simulation by Matt Robinson.


After more than a decade of false starts, the Endless Energy Company intends to apply to develop a commercial wind-energy facility on the Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble, two undeveloped peaks in the remote western Maine mountains. The site is just more than one mile from the Appalachian Trail where it traverses the Saddleback and Crocker ranges.

In late September, the developer filed pre-application information with the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), the state entity that must issue a permit for the project to be built. Indications are that the developer will file its complete application for the project in mid-December 2005.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, in partnership with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, is asking members and supporters to write letters opposing the project and to make contributions to the organization to support its legal efforts surrounding this project and other threats to the trail. Such funds are used to organize volunteers, and to hire attorneys and expert witnesses when needed.

The local Friends of the Western Mountains has collected nearly 2,000 signatures on a petition against the project, which the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust also opposes.

ATC has opposed this project since it was first proposed in the early 1990s. The Conservancy’s opposition is grounded in a belief that any large-scale development would be inappropriate in such a remote and scenic location. Redington Township is uninhabited and is at the heart of a 300,000-acre area that has no permanent development.

Critical habitats

The two ridges proposed for development are also important ecologically as exemplary natural communities with intact sub-alpine spruce/fir forests. Aerial imagery indicates that the Black Nubble ridge is in the seventh-largest roadless area in Maine, in large part due to the proximity of the U.S. Navy’s survival school on a large, undeveloped parcel. The area is also known to be prime habitat for the Bicknell’s thrush, a rare bird that only nests in sub-alpine spruce/fir forests in the northeastern United States and Canada.

The area of the Appalachian Trail that would be affected is a 33-mile section between Route 4 near Rangeley and Route 27 near Stratton, most known for its high mountain summits. The affected peaks include Saddleback, The Horn, Saddleback Junior, Mt. Abraham, Sugarloaf Cirque, and the Crocker range. Hikers on all of those summits would look directly at the proposed wind farm and the associated roads and power lines.

ATC believes that Endless Energy’s project would unacceptably alter this wild and remote place, because the scale of the project is so massive. Details of the current project plans are not available until developer Harley Lee files his plans with LURC, but, in recent public statements, he has said that the project would develop eight miles of ridgeline. To gain access to the site, he intends to upgrade more than eight miles of low-standard logging roads and bulldoze 10 miles of new roads. Those roads would be of a very high standard – estimated at 35-foot widths with minimal slopes and few sharp curves – to facilitate delivery of the huge turbine parts, concrete trucks, and cranes used to erect the turbines.

Twenty-nine wind turbines are being proposed – each with a massive concrete foundation, a 260-foot tower, and a 150-foot blade, bringing the total height of the each structure to more than 410 feet. The vegetation would be clear-cut to stage construction and would likely not be allowed to grow back, because of ongoing maintenance needs and the fact that the vegetation buffers the wind, making the turbines less efficient.

To get the power off the site and connected into the electricity grid, at least 10 miles of new high-voltage power lines would be need to be erected through this remote area.

The developer has stated that the site would be gated and off limits to the public, making Redington, a popular 4,000-foot mountain, unavailable to peak-baggers.

In addition to the ground-level impacts of building roads and power lines to remote mountain peaks, ATC believes the visual impact on the Appalachian Trail would be unacceptable. The massive size of the turbines, at more than 400 feet tall, will make them very visually prominent even at a great distance. The motion of the turbines and the presence of flashing strobe lights to warn aircraft will accentuate their presence. And, the fact that the Appalachian Trail makes a half-circle around the project (see map) means that every view for more than 50 miles of Trail would look right at the wind farm.

More than a dozen prominent summits or views would be affected, changing the vistas they afford from spectacular and remote forests to ones dominated by spinning blades and flashing lights along previously unmarred ridgelines.

Environmental balance

In weighing the decision to oppose the Redington project, the ATC Board and staff have been clear that the Conservancy does not oppose wind energy as a technology. Appropriately sited, it can and should play a role in the national mix of energy sources. ATC has joined Hikers for Clean Air, a coalition working in Washington to curb air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and has started to monitor air quality along the Trail as part of its environmental monitoring initiative. ATC believes that, while doing its part to help curb air pollution, the nation should not develop its most remote, wild, and scenic mountaintops. Instead, wind energy should be sited in places where it can be matched with existing infrastructure.

ATC has reviewed six wind-energy proposals in the viewshed of the A.T., and the Redington project is the only one it opposes. Two of the other projects are in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts. One is on top of Brodie Ski Area (about four miles from the A.T.), and the other is in the Hoosac Range (about 10 miles from the A.T.) near North Adams.

Both of those sites are much closer to significant towns and development and would not have the same kind of impact that they would in a wild and remote region. The other three projects are in southern Vermont and also adjacent to existing development, including roads and power lines.

Once the Redington developer’s application has been filed with LURC, the public will be able to comment in writing and in person. ATC and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club intend to seek “intervener” status to participate in the proceedings. To do so, ATC must hire an attorney and expert witnesses to demonstrate the high level of impact of this project, especially compared with other sites in the region where wind-energy facilities seem to be able to fit more harmoniously into the landscape.

The company says the farm would produce enough electricity to power 44,000 Maine homes, but the electricity would go into a regional power grid to be sent where needed at a particular time. Maine does not have an electricity deficit today.

The costs are “the loss of the mountains,” said Dr. Dain Trafton of Phillips, Maine, speaking for the friends group to the Original Irregular newspaper. “Is it worthwhile introducing this huge industrial plant into these beautiful mountains when, in fact, very little power will be produced, very few emissions will be avoided, and very little economic benefit will come to the area?”

Issue background

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy—the key mission of which is to protect and manage the Appalachian Trail as a national scenic trail— opposes a proposal by Endless Energy Company to build an extensive series of windmills for electricity production in direct view of one of the Trail's most scenic sections in western Maine.

The proposal has not yet gone to Maine's Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC), but ATC will seek to formally intervene in opposition when it does, because of the radical change such a project would mean for the area's pristine views, plant and animal habitats, and land-conservation potential.

The towers—as high as a 40-story building—would be visible for about four days of hiking on the Trail between Saddleback and the Bigelow Preserve. They would appear to crawl across the ranges by day as the blades whirled and to be like little lightning strokes at night, as their strobe beacons alerted airplanes to their presence, destroying any illusion of remoteness. That sense of remoteness is a major protected value in the National Trails System Act that recognized the A.T.'s national importance 34 years ago.

Moreover, to install this industrial facility, the fragile, forested ridge tops of the Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain to the west would have to be clear-cut in places and scarred further by about 12 miles of roads and perhaps 10 miles of transmission lines.

Supporters of the project tout its “clean energy” aspects and say that it would power 33,000 homes. Currently, Maine does not have an electricity deficit, and existing power lines from Maine into southern New England are at capacity.

More importantly, air-pollution problems in the state, originating in midwestern coal-fired plants, would not be abated in any significant way. Most of the energy displaced by the wind farm's small output likely would be that from nearby plants that burn more costly fuel sources such as natural gas or biomass, and not coal.

Accepting such a radical change in the A.T. viewshed—shown here—for so meager a benefit also would set the bar dangerously low for ATC in seeking to protect the Trail from other ridgetop developments, the project's opponents feel.

When the proposal is open for public comment to regulators, the necessary information will be posted here.

Source: http://www.appalachiantrail...

DEC 25 2005
http://www.windaction.org/posts/822-eternal-impact-commercial-wind-farm-would-damage-maine-wilderness
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