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Windmills in my window

Two articles recently in the Bangor Daily News caught my attention, and I’m sure I am not the only one. I want to describe how the seemingly great $55 million project to erect 30-plus windmills on top of Mars Hill Mountain affects me, a 23-year-old Presque Isle area citizen, and every other Mainer, too. Some red flags went up in my head as I perused the articles.

Green power is good! If we could figure out a way to use more green power that was economically advantageous, and didn’t take away from our natural wonders, I would support it wholeheartedly. But in this case, the opposite is happening. Mars Hill Mountain is a spectacle that is visible from most every point from Mount Katahdin and north. Most every house in the town of Mars Hills is oriented toward Mars Hill Mountain. In fact, a large number of houses in all of central Aroostook County are fixed on this geological marvel.

Now picture a 70-meter tower. It’s hard, isn’t it? Considering that we are used to measuring in yards, the conversion for that equates to just a bit larger than three-quarters the length of a football field; and that is just the pole. Each blade hanging from the top of this tower is 140 feet long. That is half a football field; so now we have an object that, when extended to peak, a football field standing on end is only a fraction of in comparison. Now picture 30 or more spinning turbines atop that breathtaking mountain that you have always loved to view. It doesn’t look so nice any longer, does it?

I found the quote from Skip Brennan [a wind power developer in upstate New York] to be alarming. Speaking of Mars Hill, he said, "A developed site tends to be draw less fire from environmental groups than a pristine site." Has he ever been to northern Maine? Has he come to Maine at all? There aren’t too many places I have seen in my travels more pristine than our beautiful state.

Secondly, isn’t that backward? These manmade giants are somehow less obtrusive in my back yard than in some place that only God knows? I live here by choice. A couple of good friends of mine were featured in the Bangor Daily News a few months ago, in an article discussing the outmigration from Aroostook County. I stayed for the serenity. I decided my happiness wouldn’t revolve around making the big bucks in a larger job market somewhere else. I truly believe these windmills will affect the quality of my life. No person living in, or visiting Aroostook County, will escape the overwhelming presence of these windmills.

There are other issues that are conveniently brushed under the carpet. The builders have spoken of "a net power need in the area, as well as the potential to sell the energy in the New England grid." What that phrase "net power need in our area" doesn’t indicate is that the need is in Canada. That’s right, we’re being used. My sources tell me that we have a surplus of power in Maine.

I remember the word "potential" from my eighth-grade science class to mean capable of, but not yet in effect. So maybe some day these windmills will be of use to us Mainers, but that doesn’t cut it for me. I have to question how much Gov. Baldacci has researched this project. I commend him for backing green power, but I have yet to see any benefits for Maine.

So where is the benefit here? Mars Hill is a town that could use a shot in the arm, economically speaking. I believe the political system in Mars Hill is working hard to find solutions that they face. I learned growing up that the quick fix doesn’t last; and UPC Wind Partners is proposing a quick fix for Mars Hill. Yes, windmills will provide "Mars Hillians" with some tax relief. The agreement made with Mars Hill, according to the Bangor Daily News, is for $3 million over the next 20 years. Do the math and that will come out to be $150,000 a year.

How far can you possibly stretch $150,000 in a municipality? I don’t see much relief; spread that between all of the citizens and they have $2 to $3 a year to give away something that is priceless. At the same time, windmills just devalued their houses. But only the citizens of Mars Hill can decide their fate when it comes to that trade-off.

The Bangor Daily News spoke of Sarah and Graydon Shorey having a dream to power their farms by wind. There are windmills like that all over the state, and I would say to the owners, good for you. These windmills are both economical and picturesque. In one article, a Mars Hill resident was quoted saying, "If I were rich, I’d build my own windmill." She also said she thought electric prices were too high, and a little competition might bring them down. That won’t be the case. In fact, it was the BDN article that reported green power to be two cents more per kilowatt-hour; that is a 50 percent increase in the cost of power.

Another resident said she is waiting to see how the windmills affect the aesthetics of the mountains and whether they have a substantial impact on the ecosystem. In the next sentence she said "she bought her home largely because of the view it affords her of the mountain." Once they go up, it is too late to say we don’t like or want them here.

We as Mainers have made many steps to keep Maine beautiful by introducing clear-cutting bans, and other such things to keep our lands natural and profit seekers from ruining such great things. This is no different. These windmills affect me, and if you want to visit the natural beauty of northern Maine then they affect you too. UPC Wind Partners would have you believe we’ll hardly even notice these windmills. I’m telling you they are blowing more wind than they’ll be collecting.

Many of our politicians have run for office under the slogan, "Let’s keep Maine, for Maine." If that is a true desire, then we should research these windmills much deeper. Call your state representative today. Let him or her know you care about what is happening, and you want more answers. There are too many holes in this process to let the windmills go ahead. Is this right for Maine? It certainly isn’t right for me.

Ben Yaeger, of Westfield, is a lifelong resident of the Presque Isle area

Ben Yaeger, Westfield