Pleas to keep the natural beauty of Maine’s mountains were countered by requests for alternative energy sources as during a second night of public hearings Wednesday on a $270 million wind power project.
Gathering in the Base Lodge at Sugarloaf ski area, the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission listened as a smaller group than Tuesday spoke about a proposal to rezone about 2,908 acres for TransCanada’s commercial wind energy project in northern Franklin County.
TransCanada Energy Ltd. wants to build a 44-turbine wind power facility on the southern portion of Kibby Mountain and on Kibby Range Mountain in Kibby and Skinner townships north of Eustis and south of Canada.
Opinions were split over the proposal as the numbers speaking for and against the project were close. A similar split was seen Tuesday night, a TransCanada representative said.
State Rep. Stacey Fitts of Pittsfield, who serves on the state Wind Power Task Force and is an engineer by trade, told the commission that the Legislature encourages the use of wind power in Maine. Ways to offset dependence on natural gas will be a benefit to Maine, he said.
“It’s the only alternative we have to move forward and get off fossil fuels,” he said.
As she urged the commission to deny the project, Vera Trafton of Phillips voiced her belief that the economic future of this area depends on the wild and beautiful land. The wind power plant will be visible for miles around for years to come, she said.
After hiking Kibby mountain and others in the area over the last 50 years, Chuck Knox of New Hampshire, who has a camp in the area, said he sat atop the mountain and looked around at other peaks that could be seen. Afterward he studied how many peaks above 3,000 feet were seen in a 20-mile radius of Kibby and found there were 26.
“This would be a loss of a precious area that’s irreplaceable,” he said.
Jack McKee of Kingfield expressed his “dismay by those who profess to support wind power but in the same breath express the view that such facilities should be constructed elsewhere – perhaps anywhere but here.”
Speaking of fossil fuel effects on global warming and a Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, McKee told the commission, “The Kibby project gives Maine an opportunity to give factual and demonstrable evidence of the state’s commitment to a cleaner, more healthful environment.”
After recently visiting Mars Hill, Richard Jennings of Fayette said he did not see the wind turbines there as ugly or bad. His visit brought him to a home 3,000 feet from seven of the turbines and the noise was no worse than his sleep apnea machine at night. He urged the board to accept the proposal because alternative energy is a necessity.
For Wilma and Lou Stack, whose camp in Alder Stream Township would be 400 feet from the transmission line, this would be a clean energy source.
“I won’t see an ugly site but a pollution free source of power,” he said.
Kenny Wing of Eustis, a retired forest ranger, is opposed to the development on Kibby because of the need to rezone above 2,700 feet. Voicing support of wind, water and sun power, he told the commission he would rather have the project in his hometown than on Kibby Mountain.
The foundation necessary to support a 300-foot turbine, twice the height of the capitol dome in Augusta, said Helmut Bitterauf of New Sharon, will take a lot of space cleared on top of the mountain.
TransCanada wants 17 turbines installed on Kibby Mountain and 27 on the wishbone-shaped Kibby Ridge.
By Ann Bryant
4 October 2007
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