With yet another state meeting to be held in Garrett County concerning wind power projects, local citizens voiced their concerns not only about the turbines but the comment period for the Public Service Commission.
“The application online (for the Clipper Windpower project) is unusable,” Barbara Boone said. “Many people will not know (about the project) until the PSC meeting. Send a letter to the PSC to keep the comment period open for 30 days after the meeting.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Boone said the link to see Clipper’s application takes hours to load even with high speed Internet. The map attached to that plan also shows no definite designation for the proposed turbines along Backbone Mountain.
She felt those items were necessary to make an informed comment by the date of the PSC meeting at Garrett College on March 6 at 7 p.m. That is also the cutoff date for any further commentary.
She said that at the meeting, many will be learning more about where the turbines will be located and the scope of the project that had originally called for 40 of the turbines on Backbone Mountain, but is now requesting a downsizing to 28 that would produce 70 megawatts of power.
This could mean the project would move faster than previously expected, thanks to new legislation that allows projects under 70 megawatts to bypass the PSC process.
The commissioners made the decision following the meeting to send a letter to the PSC requesting the 30-day extension.
Others at the meeting posed questions about the turbines and the commissioners’ stance on them.
“Where is it appropriate in Garrett County to put them?” Dave Bertsch said. “Garrett County has some of the last deep forests in the state. It is going to be irreparable damage.”
Bertsch questioned whether the commissioners had established some form of insurance for when the time came to tear down the turbines after their usefulness was done.
Commissioner Fred Holliday said that there was, in the agreement with the wind power companies, a required account to be kept for such an occurrence.
Bertsch said it should be at least $300,000 per turbine, based upon his own research into the subject.
Holliday said that while he didn’t know the exact amount, he knew the account would not be for that amount.
Judy Bertsch also spoke at the meeting, citing the book “Wind Energy Comes of Age,” written by Paul Gipe in 1995. She said Gipe was a definite turbine supporter, but showed some examples of problems areas experience.
She also said Gipe discusses the problems that service roads can cause in making hill slopes much steeper and causing additional erosion problems.
She added that some areas require red lines be painted on the turbines of 200 feet to make them more visible, where the turbines proposed in Garrett County would be 400 feet in height. She said she is curious what “peppermint mountain” would look like, with the red on the white turbines.
Judy Bertsch discussed the distraction and annoyance of flashing lights on the turbines and security lights at the location. Both of these, she said, would detract from the rural nature of the county.
Commission Chairman Denny Glotfelty said the county has no zoning, there is no way to enforce regulations and the county could not simply target that industry and not begin countywide zoning.
He said while the commissioners are against the turbines on public property, they support it on private and the county commission has shown support for projects in the past.
By Sarah Moses
27 February 2008
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