Residents of Western Maryland’s Garrett County pride themselves on their scenic byways and fall foliage, the whitewater rafting and skiing. Like others in the state and around the country, they are concerned about the environment and understand the need for renewable energy sources.
But a proposal to erect 400-foot tall wind turbines to generate clean electricity drew almost unanimous opposition at hearings this week from residents who, while supportive of alternative energy, would prefer not to spoil the scenic views of their state land.
The proposal, by Pennsylvania-based U.S. Wind Force seeks annual leases on roughly 400 acres of publicly-owned land for about 100 turbines.
Around 700 people attended Department of Natural Resources meetings Wednesday and Thursday nights in Garrett County and Annapolis, with only a handful speaking in favor of the turbines. The DNR will continue taking public comments on the proposal until March 3.
Carl Lee, a seventh-generation Garrett County resident, was among the first to speak at the McHenry hearing.
“My forefathers enjoyed the mountain views, and so have I. They ought to be preserved for my children and their children to continue to be enjoyed,” Mr. Lee said
Proposals to put wind turbines off the coast of Delaware and Maryland have generated similar concerns from residents and business owners in places like Ocean City.
In Garrett County, residents are concerned about more than just mountain views. They worry about decreased property values, the noise and “strobe light effect” from the turbines and the idea that publicly-owned land would be more or less turned over to corporations – all of which could have negative effects on tourism.
Residents also argue that other regions of Maryland, such as the Chesapeake Bay, would be better suited for the turbines.
Despite the resoundingly negative input from Western Maryland residents, the state’s need for renewable energy sources remains pressing.
Maryland imports 28 percent of its energy from other states, said Crissy Godfrey, manager of the state’s Renewable Energy Program. The added stress of importing this energy on already crammed transmission lines could lead to rolling summer blackouts as early as 2011, Ms. Godfrey said.
Supporters of wind power pointed to these figures in their speeches, expressing frustration that none of the opponents had suggested any other answers to the problem.
By Kate Elizabeth Queram
Capital News Service
2 February 2008
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