MCHENRY – In a crowd of more than 325 Wednesday night, proponents of wind power on public land were in the minority.
“I made my choice,” Delegate Wendell Beitzel said. “My choice is not to include wind turbines on state land in Maryland. For me, it’s personal… This is our home. It’s where we live. The state forests here define who we are.”
Beitzel was the first of many to speak during the public comment portion of a public hearing held in the Garrett College auditorium to address a plan proposed by U.S. Wind Force, a privately held company based near Pittsburgh. The firm wants to lease and clear about 400 acres in the Potomac and Savage River state forests and erect about 100 wind turbines.
The point brought up repeatedly by residents was the effect the turbines would have on the view and natural aesthetics of the area. Some gave personal opinions that they felt the turbines were ugly, while others mentioned they would dwarf any other building in the county, with the Wisp at seven stories, and the proposed turbines around 40 stories in height.
“I love Garrett County,” Floyd Ellis of Swanton said. “I don’t want to see a big scar. This is going to be a big one, a big, white, three-bladed one.”
However, William Llewellyn said that the sacrifice of the view was worth ensuring that Maryland continued to have energy. He referred to a presentation given by Department of Natural Resources officials earlier in the meeting, saying that a large portion of the energy that is used in Maryland is actually transported in by other states.
He said the land belongs to the general public and should be able to benefit the general public.
Others argued that it would be Garrett County residents who would be living with the wind turbines, not the rest of the state.
There was also discussion of recent ads about the “myths” of wind power, which several spoke on and said they felt that the current state of the land was being misrepresented as a current industrial resource because there is some logging that occurs on the state forest property.
Ron Boyer, a Grantsville resident who lives near New Germany State Park, said that while logging continues to take place in the area, it is done on a rotational basis and not a clear-cutting of the forest land.
Several people who spoke on the same subject mentioned that by installing the turbines, the area of forest would be gone in place of the turbines, which is not the case with the rotational logging.
Charlie Ross, speaking on behalf of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, said his group is opposed to the idea of using state land in this way. He said the area has had to restore forests from logging, recover the water from the coal industry and reclaim the land from strip mining.
“How many times must we reclaim, recover and restore?” Ross said.
Many present were not convinced of wind power’s efficiency. Others questioned the effects that the installation of the turbines would have on the natural habitat and on area residents, as some were concerned of constant noise or the “strobe effect” of the turbines’ blades.
High on the list of points against the installation of the turbines was the effect of the windmills on the view for area residents. This included how it could affect the real estate and tourism markets in the county.
Russell Bounds, president of the Garrett County Realtor’s Association, said that the mention that there was the possibility of turbines being put in the area could turn away a sale.
However, Tim Miller, who owns an area business, said that though he does not live in the area, he just recently sold his home in Meyersdale, Pa., and saw an increase in the value of his home when he sold it last year. He added that his home had been purchased prior to the building of the turbines and was in clear view of them.
Mike Driesbach, owner of Savage River Lodge, said he feels many of his visitors come to his business because they were a “green” business. He felt that many would come or continue to come to the area because they were taking a more “green” approach to producing energy.
As for the affects of the turbines on nearby residents, Miller also said he had not heard any complaints of noise or the “strobe effect” while he lived in Meyersdale.
He also added that as a business owner, having no power would be at least as detrimental if not more so than having a wind turbine nearby.
By Sarah Moses
The Associated Press contributed to this story
31 January 2008
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