I attended the county commissioners’ public commentary on Tuesday. Your paper had reported that the commissioners would be voting on their position on the placement of wind turbines on public lands. As the commentary period opened, Mr. Glotfelty stated that they had changed their mind and would not vote until after the DNR hearings on the matter (to be held at the college at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 30). I believe they should vote sooner and begin representing Garrett County’s position to the state.
The commissioners’ meeting room was full, and only one person commented that he, like Senator Edwards, approved of “selective” placement of turbines, while everyone else in the room opposed the installation of turbines on public lands. There were hunters and artists, CPAs and politicians, teachers and business owners, realtors and environmentalists.
Realtors and environmentalists!? Since when are they on the same side of a land use issue? This is big.
One turbine would be about the same height as “the Face” of Wisp ski area – 450 feet. Trees in our state forests might reach 100 feet. As was said in the meeting, only one building in Pittsburgh is taller than these turbines; only three buildings in Baltimore are taller. And no building in Cleveland – or Annapolis, for that matter – is taller.
What are we doing to this county in the name of a totally fickle and unreliable energy that will neither keep up with future increases in demand, nor replace existing coal-powered facilities? Never before in this country has public land been used for wind farms. But Maryland is making Garrett County the guinea pig in this experiment because folks downstate see us as “the path of least resistance.” And some big Florida-based company is going to use our land for almost nothing and get tax credits, and on top of that, sell electricity, while scientists and hunters, hikers and wildlife lose the right to use our state lands.
We love and need our forests. Let’s not make an irreversible mistake. Please call your reps, and show up at the DNR hearings.
The county commissioners inexplicably refused to take a position on whether or not to oppose massive wind technology on state lands earlier this week, despite telling a number of people they would, instead claiming at the meeting they would do so only after the public DNR meetings here and in Annapolis on January 30 and 31, respectively.
A number of people were quite eloquent about the issue during the public comment session, for the commissioners’ hearing room at the courthouse was filled to overflowing. A show of hands demonstrated that virtually all opposed the measure.
Jeff Connor led off with a strong plea for the commissioners to protect both the county’s rural heritage and hunters’ interests by taking the initiative as leaders of the people. John Bambacus then beseeched the commissioners to take a stand and vote now, then asked for a county moratorium on all wind development in order to investigate its impact. Jane Avery gave each of the commissioners a dollar and asked them to remember that “the buck stops here,” which was the sign Harry Truman had placed on his desk. A number of others also spoke, each addressing his/her own concerns in ways that complemented the range of issues involved. The session ended with Smokey Stanton’s plea for the commissioners to push for more informed public policy.
The central theme was that the natural resources of Garrett County not be exploited by inappropriate industrial development, especially state lands held in trust for all the people of the state, protecting as well its diverse wildlife. Our political leaders were elected to protect our property and our natural and cultural resources. The commissioners themselves felt so strongly about this that they crafted the county’s Heritage Plan a few years ago with language expressly describing the entire county as a “natural heritage resource.”
Editor’s note: The writer of the following letter to the Garrett County commissioners requested that it appear in this column.
I thought your actions at today’s (Tuesday’s) meeting were disgraceful. As elected officials, you have a responsibility to take a stand on issues of great importance to your constituents. Today was not a profile in courage, but rather a deceitful act of cowardice.
At no time during my earlier conversations with each of you prior to this morning’s meeting did you indicate that you would not vote this matter up or down. As a courtesy, you could have at least given me and others a head’s-up that each of you had a change of heart before the meeting began, but you chose not to do so. When I met with you initially, I dealt with you respectfully and professionally and believed that you would respond the same way. But instead, you lied about your intentions and did not state your position on the matter in a public forum.
State forests belong to the people of Maryland and should not be put up for sale at any price to anyone for private gain. They are there to conserve our natural resources, preserve historic sites and endangered plants and animals, and provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities.
John N. Bambacus
Frank Maisano’s letter in The Republican (12/20/07) supporting wind turbines in state forests was quite disturbing. Maisano asserted that there is “widespread support of most residents” for the construction of industrial wind turbines on public land. But there has been no official vote or scientific poll taken of Garrett County citizens on this topic, though we will have an opportunity to be counted at the public meeting at Garrett College on January 30. He also states that there is “already strong support” for these industrial facilities on public land from environmental groups, county officials, academics, and labor leaders, yet fails to provide the names of any of these organizations or individuals. But it was his description of the forested ridges in our state forests as “industrial tracts” that was most offensive to this reader.
Logging an area does not make it an industrial site. Logging is a silvicultural tool used to harvest standing trees suitable for lumber or other wood products. In time, the trees will grow back. One may debate the size, location, or type of harvest on state forest land, but all recognize that when properly managed, forests help conserve and protect habitat, soil, water, and air while providing needed wood products and recreational opportunities.
Both Savage River and Potomac-Garrett state forests are within the Mid-Atlantic Highlands, the largest interior hardwood forest in the world’s temperate latitudes. This region provides unique habitat for a variety of species. The construction of industrial wind facilities on these ridges would significantly fragment the forest, causing impacts far beyond the limit of disturbance. As a former biologist in the Savage River State Forest, I led backpacking trips on Meadow Mountain for persons who paid to hike this beautiful ridge. Many residents and visitors hunt, mountain bike, botanize, cross-county ski, snowmobile, and watch birds on these forested ridges. None would visit these areas if they were industrial sites.
Instead of subsidizing big corporations to construct huge wind factories along our ridgelines, our government should provide significant tax relief and incentives to homeowners and businesses to both conserve energy and to install personal wind energy appliances, solar panels, and geothermal systems on both existing and new structures whenever practical. As citizens we have been entrusted to protect our public lands for future generations. As responsible citizens we must actively oppose the construction of industrial wind turbines in Maryland’s state forests.
Association Deep Creek Lake
I truly love Garrett County and its old, majestic Appalachian mountains. It saddens and frustrates me that the mountains and our people are about to be exploited by our own governor and the wind turbine industry by proposing wind turbine sites on our state lands.
Our beautiful, rural landscape has attracted many tourists and second home buyers, which has contributed to Garrett County’s wealth. To ruin our landscape with 400-foot wind turbines would be a travesty to our landscape and a detriment to our tourism economic engine. I could go pages on with no end as to how our state forests would be permanently fragmented forever, how wind energy is not a reliable source of energy, how wind energy cannot even come close to solving our future energy needs, how wind turbines would not exist if not subsidized by our own tax dollars, how the wind turbine companies misrepresent the facts for the sake of greenbacks and not for green energy, how noise pollution would affect our residents not to mention our hunting lands, or how the wind energy produced from this county will be shipped east for consumption and not having any effect on our personal electric bills.
Our state lands should be handed down for future generations to adore and cherish. Our state lands cannot be for lease or sale to big companies to exploit. It is now time that the residents of this county, the county commissioners, Delegate Beitzel and Senator Edwards to all unanimously stand up against using our state lands for 400-foot wind turbines. The governor needs to hear our message loud and clear. We need to say “We Oppose,” “We Oppose,” “We Oppose” wind turbines on our state lands. Governor O’Malley, are you listening? Do you hear us? “We Oppose.”
This letter is in response to Frank Maisano’s letter to the editor in The Republican (12/20/07). There were several statements in his letter regarding wind power in general, and wind power on public land, that need careful examination and correction.
First, his use of the term “wind farm” is misused. The word “farm” conjures up visions of pastoral beauty (a place and lifestyle that we in Garrett County are actually trying to preserve). An industrial wind facility with 100 turbines each 420 feet tall, with support roads, transformers, and transmission lines (buried and above ground) seen from approximately 45% of the county just doesn’t fit into that bucolic image.
Second, his characterization that state forest ridges along Meadow and Backbone mountains are “industrial sites” is ludicrous. Commercial lumbering has historically existed on state forest land on a rotational basis for many years, but the forest regenerates and the wildlife habitat remains pretty much intact. An “industrial site” filled with wind turbines permanently transforms the land with no regeneration or maintenance of forest, habitat, or ecosystems.
Third, his statement “We already have seen strong support from leading state environmental groups, county officials, academics, and local labor leaders” is misleading. Are we talking about wind turbines on public land or wind turbines in general? I think the latter is probably the case. I personally have not heard a single member of the aforementioned groups publicly come out in favor of the placement of wind turbines in state forests, as of the writing of this letter.
If the developers of wind power have to use blatant misrepresentations to sell their product, then maybe we need to take a step back and re-examine all that is stated by wind industry officials and their representatives.
Wind power is generally considered a green industry and beneficial for the environment. Unfortunately, the industrial wind power companies have transformed the environmental “green” into a monetary “green” for themselves. When that happens we all need to be alert to the Madison Avenue generated spin.
Please note that I am not against wind power. As a matter of fact, I am actively examining the possibility of a personal wind appliance for my home. But the placement of these industrial wind turbines on public land would be an ecological travesty beyond measure. Our public lands need to be preserved and protected, not transformed into industrial sites.
To the county commissioners, I ask you to please do whatever you can to stop Garrett County from being ruined by the installation of wind turbines on public and other lands. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the greatest threat to the economy and way of life in Garrett County that has ever existed. I know that you have supported these in the past, but we all know more now than we did before. If you don’t want our beautiful county to become an unrecognizable wasteland, you should oppose them with every means at your disposal, including litigation, if necessary.
While many people may currently support them, it is only because they don’t realize the level of destruction that is about to happen. People will not be so supportive after the windmills are up, and they will correctly blame the county commissioners and other local officials for allowing it to happen. Hundreds, if not thousands, of wind turbines constantly thrashing all over our ridge tops will become an everlasting legacy to the stupidity and shortsightedness of local government officials.
The presumed revenues from the turbines will never materialize in any significant amount, and the damage to all residents will be huge, permanent, and irreparable. It is simply unbelievable that, as other countries are turning against wind energy as being useless to increase electrical capacity (Germany, France, Denmark), we would even be considering this folly! It is virtually certain that the federal tax credits (without which wind energy cannot survive) will be ended within a few years, as we also come to realize the inability of wind energy to contribute any meaningful capacity. The existing turbines will be abandoned, the taxes and lease payments will cease, and the remediation costs for the county will be astronomical.
To your other readers, please attend the scheduled public hearings to voice your opposition. Please write to Governor O’Malley and other state officials to ask them to withdraw this outrageous proposal to convert our precious state forest lands to industrial wasteland. Please take the time to learn the reality of this futile technology instead of simply believing the lies that wind developers and their lobbyists so skillfully impart. It is your job to protect the interests of Garrett County. The need for action has never been more urgent. Please help!
Vincent A. Collins
I agree completely with Mr. Collins’ assessment of this issue. Wind energy in our part of the country is unreliable and does ruin what little natural terrain we have left, plus the state should not be allowed to lease public state forest land for a profit-making enterprise that is supported solely by tax credits. There is not one less pound of CO2 generated by having wind power in the grid. It takes too long to bring a coal unit up when the wind stops or slows, so the power companies keep the boilers running anyhow! It is a PR thing legislated by the government to look good.
I happen to work for a company that fabricates most of the large fiberglass windmill blades used in Europe and North America. The business is great, but I do think it is a scam on the public in areas that do not have steady winds.
I think Mr. Collins is also correct when he writes that in a few years these units will be abandoned in place just like old power plants, and the owners will claim they have no money to tear them down and restore the land. So if they are allowed to be built they will stand rusting for 200 years! I sure don’t want to stare at that – do you all?
Please do voice opposition to this idiotic idea!
10 January 2008
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