A new citizens group is forming to raise awareness about a wind project slated to be built in the towns of Readsboro and Searsburg. Save the Ridgelines is a grassroots organization made up of people who share a concern about wind power and the proposed Deerfield Wind Project. Owned by PPM Energy, of Portland, OR, the Deerfield Wind Project will comprise 17 wind turbines and generate up to 34-35.7 MW of electricity. Eighty acres of Green Mountain National Forest land has been set aside for development and the Vermont Public Service Board is now considering whether or not to grant a certificate of public good. If approved, each turbine will stand 408-410 feet high and provide electricity for up to 14,000-16,000 homes.
“We are currently in the process of being incorporated. We now have a president, vice president, secretary, and the purpose of the group is to stop the project they’re proposing on national forest land,” said Jeanette Lee, secretary of Save the Ridgelines. Lee said the group is not against wind power per se but believes the whole project is not right for this community. A major concern is if it will open Green Mountain National Forest land for development and if approved, may lead to more commercial development on national forest lands.
“It’s going to open up a can of worms. It’s an industrialized project and if it’s going up on national forest land, that would be the first time in the United States that would happen,” said Lee.
Lee is a Searsburg resident and lives within a mile of the proposed site. She is concerned about noise pollution and if the project were to get the go-ahead, believes her community will no longer be a peaceful place to live. She worries about noise from construction, trucks constantly traveling up and down the roads, and the noise of the wind blades once they’re up and running. But Lee said not all people are involved for the same reasons.
“For locals, it’s health concerns, noise, and because it’s on national forest land. A lot of it will be destroyed, access will be limited,” said Lee. “Then there are those concerned with how will it affect tourism, property values, flashing red lights, and the loss of pristine ridgelines.”
Recently Save the Ridgelines launched a Web site to make available information related to the Deerfield Wind Project. In addition, the Web site is equipped with letters to the editor, maps, photos, and a list of alternatives to wind power. The Web site went live last month and members say it’s been a valuable tool for the community to use.
“The major thing for the Web site is educational. There were a lot of things about this project people didn’t know about and it’s here to show people what the negatives are they may not be aware of,” said Lee.
Tony Lopez was one of the members who created the Web site and for him, the purpose was to share information that people might not already know.
“We came up with the Web site so we could have a channel that everyone can meet at and get educated on this whole project,” said Lopez, a Long Island native and second-home owner in Wilmington who shares concerns over the project. “People knew about it but don’t know the scope of it and this is a means to inform people.”
Lopez said the Web site is receiving traffic and the more people know about the site and the project, the busier it will get. Another goal is to gain new members and raise funds. Save the Ridgelines is filing a motion to intervene and it’s costing them money to get to the table during the deliberation process. Regardless of its intentions, Lopez believes the Web site is a major step.
“Essentially we hope to reach people and have a place where people can feel comfortable, meet one another, become a member, and show they’re concerned. We’ll also e-mail them all kinds of stuff about new developments. Most people need an extra reminder and this helps,” said Lopez.
The Public Service Board is still in the initial stages of the project and will not come to a decision until next year. The Wilmington selectboard will have a special meeting on December 12, at 7 pm, at the Twin Valley High School cafeteria to determine whether or not to approve the project but in the meantime, Save the Ridgelines is doing what it can to educate the Deerfield Valley about what lies ahead.
“Realistically if we let this happen, we’re the guinea pigs of this project and if it can happen here, it can happen everywhere,” said Lopez.
For more information, visit Save the Ridgelines at www.ClearskyVT.org.
By Christian Avard
29 November 2007
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