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Wind farm plan should spur discussion — soon

Before wading too far into discussion of a possible wind farm in the vicinity of Giant Springs Heritage State Park, it's important to note something the developer himself notes: The proposal is very preliminary. On the table is an initial outline of 14 wind turbines on benchland between the Rainbow Dam area east of Giant Springs and Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Before wading too far into discussion of a possible wind farm in the vicinity of Giant Springs Heritage State Park, it's important to note something the developer himself notes: The proposal is very preliminary.

On the table is an initial outline of 14 wind turbines on benchland between the Rainbow Dam area east of Giant Springs and Malmstrom Air Force Base.

David Brown, president of Giant Springs Natural Spring Water, said a wind farm is one of several possibilities being investigated for a stretch of grass and wheat fields that stretch eastward along the north side of 18th Avenue North, from roughly 52nd Street and across what is technically 67th Street, better known as the back way to the Rainbow Falls Overlooks.

The only thing piercing the skyline there now is an old water tower next to the Giant Springs Water building. Presumably, the turbines would be similar to the 387-foot behemoths on Gore Hill and dotting the Judith Gap area — much taller than the water tower.

While Brown hasn't made any formal plans, he did inform Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks of the proposal, and in doing so he smoked out a negative response.

"Wind power is good for the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Before wading too far into discussion of a possible wind farm in the vicinity of Giant Springs Heritage State Park, it's important to note something the developer himself notes: The proposal is very preliminary.

On the table is an initial outline of 14 wind turbines on benchland between the Rainbow Dam area east of Giant Springs and Malmstrom Air Force Base.

David Brown, president of Giant Springs Natural Spring Water, said a wind farm is one of several possibilities being investigated for a stretch of grass and wheat fields that stretch eastward along the north side of 18th Avenue North, from roughly 52nd Street and across what is technically 67th Street, better known as the back way to the Rainbow Falls Overlooks.

The only thing piercing the skyline there now is an old water tower next to the Giant Springs Water building. Presumably, the turbines would be similar to the 387-foot behemoths on Gore Hill and dotting the Judith Gap area — much taller than the water tower.

While Brown hasn't made any formal plans, he did inform Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks of the proposal, and in doing so he smoked out a negative response.

"Wind power is good for the state," said Gary Bertellotti, FWP Region 4 supervisor, "but our concern is the viewshed right along the river."

It's a concern that many undoubtedly will share, including some users of the nearby River's Edge Trail.

We'd like to make two points about that:

First we'd note that the area isn't exactly pristine at present.

The trail — which runs below and roughly parallel to the proposed line of turbines about half a mile to the north — crosses an old industrial site and is bounded by a road on one side and a railroad line on the other. The area is crisscrossed by powerlines, and the nearby eastern terminus of the paved portion of trail overlooks a sizable hydroelectric dam.

The proposed wind turbines would be most visible on a stretch of trail that is fairly far from the water. At the point where an eastbound traveler on the trail would catch the fullest sight of the turbines — as the trail rises up the hill to the overlook — the turbines probably would make a more interesting vista than the train trestle and the road.

Second, and just as important, the landowner is proposing nothing that is contrary to what the area's regulations allow.

We could imagine more trouble environmentally from other proposals in the immediate vicinity.

For instance, last year Brown discussed constructing a plant to manufacture a fuel additive on the very same property.

Another example is the long-discussed but never-realized ethanol plant, which would sit across the avenue just south of where Brown is thinking about turbines.

It's probably too soon to take a firm stand on the turbine proposal; much more needs to be learned, starting with whether it's even feasible.

For example Brown said developers would need at least a year's worth of meteorological data from the site before designing a plan. That probably means placement of anemometers to gauge wind potential.

But we're not heartened by the immediate, negative response it received from FWP.

If people truly do not want this or other types of development on that land, then a move should be initiated soon to buy or swap the land with a different tract that would allow Brown's company to proceed with its plans elsewhere.

The situation is somewhat analogous to subdivision plans on land across the river from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

In that case, the center's foundation stepped in last month and arranged to purchase the land, preserving the view from the center's towering picture window and setting up another important link in the north shore part of the River's Edge Trail.

We're among the biggest fans of the River's Edge Trail and the Missouri River corridor through Great Falls.

We love what it has done and continues to do for the economy, recreational opportunity and the morale of the city's residents.

But we're not sure how far its halo should radiate, especially if it's at the expense of legitimate economic development.

We hope Brown's wind-farm proposal will be the catalyst for a full discussion of that question.


Source: http://www.greatfallstribun...

JUL 23 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3619-wind-farm-plan-should-spur-discussion-soon
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