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'Green' groups support project

Three environmental organizations agreed to back the proposed Kibby Mountain wind-power project in Franklin County after the developer agreed to pay $500,000 to protect several high-elevation acres in Oxford County.

According to a late Tuesday afternoon report, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Audubon and Natural Resources Council of Maine negotiated the deal with TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc.

In January, TransCanada filed an application with the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission to rezone 2,900 acres and build a $270 million wind energy farm on ridges of the Boundary Mountains. The proposed 44-turbine power facility on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range is expected to generate about 357 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually – enough to power 50,000 Maine homes, the report stated.

In its amended application, filed Monday with LURC, TransCanada reduced the size of its project and agreed to relocate turbines to avoid creating significant negative impacts to potential habitat for the northern bog lemming, a threatened species in Maine, and to high elevation terrain potentially inhabited by the rare Bicknell’s thrush.

According to the changes, which are pending LURC approval, TransCanada will:

“¢ Study bird and bat mortality when the project is operating and share the results with environmental organizations.

“¢ Not develop wind facilities on 1,324 acres of land above 2,700 feet located near the project site.

“¢ Contribute $500,000 to permanently conserve 750 acres of ecologically significant high-elevation habitat and important backcountry recreation and forest economy lands in Maine’s Mahoosuc Range. Specifically, the parcel would protect the summits and upper shoulders of Sunday River Whitecap, Stowe and Bald mountains.

The Western Mountain parcel would be a component of a larger land protection effort that would also complement more than 31,000 acres of abutting conservation lands, including the Mahoosuc Public Lands Unit and Grafton Notch State Park.

According to the report, the three organizations want wind power to be a long-term, clean-energy solution in Maine, but placed and mitigated appropriately.

The substantial amount of clean energy that would be provided by the project also drew NRCM’s support, said advocacy director Pete Didisheim.

“If approved and built, this wind farm will provide an important step forward in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and addressing the threat of global warming,” Didisheim said.

By Terry Karkos
Staff Writer

Sun Journal

6 June 2007