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Talk about a dilemma…

The Maryland Public Service Commission yet again heard testimony at a hearing yesterday from several local residents who do not want giant wind turbines in Garrett County. Thanks to legislation passed a year ago, some wind-generation projects, such as the one Clipper Windpower Inc. wants to erect on Backbone Mountain, qualify for what is referred to as “fast-track approval,” a move designed to circumvent much of the resistance created by those who are opposed to wind farms.

Besides all of the negatives concerning wind turbines mentioned over and over again at hearings and in the columns of this and other newspapers (noise, inefficiency, blinking lights, potential threats to wildlife, etc.), at least one more emerged recently from the mayor and town councils of both Mountain Lake Park and Loch Lynn. It happens that the proposed turbines for Backbone Mountain will be located above the area of the towns’ primary water supply (the Landon’s dam reservoir). At least one expert says that the use of explosives to make way for the bases of the turbines could truly threaten the water supply. It has to do with the rock strata and content on the mountain slope above the dam. Letters from both mayors noting great concern (one of which is in our letters to the editor on this page today) were submitted to the PSC.

Surely the commission will not approve this project without absolute assurance that the water supply of the largest residential area in the county would be in no way threatened.

Another matter pointed out in yet another letter on this page concerns properties that are adjacent to those tracts on which the wind turbines are to be erected. The question posed in the letter, and directed to county leadership, is a good one: If it is necessary for the wind developers to cross, or even touch, adjacent properties in any way, either to bring in equipment, bury cables, or build roads, and the adjacent property owner refuses to grant them such access, will the county exercise eminent domain? That, of course, is special authority granted to state and county government to force property owners to give up their property rights, or the property itself, for what is considered the greater good of the community.

Now, for a group of county commissioners who to date have been adamantly opposed to county-wide zoning because of the whole property rights philosophy, we can’t help but wonder what they would do if called upon to employ eminent domain for wind developers. Talk about a dilemma.

We’re not sure that the commissioners have ever even thought about this possibility. Now might be the time for them to do so.

The Republican

24 April 2008