Wind power project’s benefits to Maine people doubtful
Most of the time I believe we can use and manage our natural resources for the good of the people of Maine. Having said that, I am in opposition to Maine Mountain Power’s proposal to build a wind plant on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain in Franklin County.
The land above 2700 feet in Maine’s mountains has been protected from development since 1972. According to state regulations, a rezoning like the one Maine Mountain Power is requesting in order to build the project must meet stringent criteria. The proposed development must fit “harmoniously into the existing natural environment,” and it must satisfy “a demonstrated need in the community and area.” It must provide a “public benefit.” This project does not meet these criteria.
I am well acquainted with the area into which this plant would go. For the last four years, I have represented District 90 in the Maine State House of Representatives. District 90 includes Phillips, Avon, Strong, and the unorganized towns of Freeman and Salem, many parts of which lie within sight of the proposed plant. I have viewed Redington and Black Nubble and the surrounding mountains from public roads in those towns. I have seen the proposed site from the Appalachian Trail. From a visual point of view alone, I cannot see how anyone could argue that thirty 410-foot wind turbines can be judged “harmonious” with the natural beauty of an area that seems to me to equal any scenic region we have in the State of Maine.
As a Ph.D. from the University of Maine with a strong background in forest soils, I know how fragile the sub-alpine soils and vegetation above 2700 feet are. In fact, my Master’s degree thesis work was on mountain soils. This vegetation and these soils constitute an ecological system that took years to form. This project’s disturbance of the fragile ecosystem on Redington and Black Nubble will take decades to recover – if it ever recovers. How can this be deemed “harmonious with the existing natural environment?” My background and experience clearly say that it can’t.
From an employment perspective, the project will create a few temporary construction jobs and, allegedly, five to 10 permanent jobs. But will these permanent jobs actually be located in our area? Wind plants require very little daily attention: two maintenance people for every 30 or 40 turbines is apparently normal. Management and other staff may be located in Yarmouth or even California, and brought to the plant if and when they are needed.
One of the public benefits alleged by the promoters of the plant is that it will seriously reduce air pollution and the emissions associated with global warming, but I think that these claims are far from proven.
Indeed, from what I have read, I have concluded that the benefits will be at best small – especially given the size of the project and its intrusion into the “existing natural environment” – and perhaps amount to almost nothing. I gather that opponents argued plausibly that in fact the operation of the Redington plant would force other renewable plants – not fossil fuel plants – off line some of the time. If this important matter is in doubt, where is the public “need” or public “good” that justifies the sacrifice of the mountains?
Finally, we must weigh seriously the potential harm that would be done to the economy of Northern Franklin County. I am speaking particularly of the ecotourism industry. As more and more people are attracted to the natural environment, I am confident that the wild beauty of central and northern Franklin County will become increasingly valuable – not just in aesthetic and spiritual terms, but economically.
Our mountains, along with our other natural features, are a gold mine that we should protect. They attract people to the area as tourists. These people bring their talents and their money to our area; they buy goods and services; they pay taxes; they contribute to local causes. They come here because of the natural beauty of the area. Our mountains are “public goods” that outweigh the doubtful “public goods” that have been claimed in support of this project.
Wind power maybe a good idea, but not on the Western Maine Mountains.
Rep. Thomas Saviello (U-Wilton) represents District 90 in the State Legislature.
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