More than 200 people turned out last night to debate the merits of allowing wind turbines in state forests.
The vast majority of those who signed up to speak at a public hearing in Annapolis opposed using public lands for private energy projects.
Pennsylvania-based U.S. Wind Force has proposed erecting about 100 turbines in the Savage River and Potomac state forests in Garrett County.
The high-tech windmills – 400 feet high – would be built atop mountain ridges visible from Deep Creek Lake and Western Maryland’s other tourist attractions.
The company is seeking 20-year leases on about 400 acres of forest that would be cleared for the turbines.
The state could receive payments of about $1 million a year from the deal.
Advocates say such wind farms generate pollution-free electricity that would help combat global warming.
A hearing Wednesday night in McHenry drew 500 Western Marylanders, most of them strongly opposed.
Critics said allowing what amounts to an industrial project in state forests would set a bad precedent for exploitation of other public lands.
Both hearings were sponsored by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin said the state has not yet taken a position on the proposal.
The agency is taking public comments by mail and online until March 3.
By Timothy B. Wheeler
1 February 2008
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