Though no official decision has been made on placing wind turbines on Backbone Mountain following the Maryland Public Service Commission hearing Wednesday, plans for the project progress.
“They have put in applications for grading permits,” Jim Torrington, chief of the county permits and inspections division, said. “The (stormwater/sediment erosion) survey has not been completed. That will be done by the (Garrett County’s) Department of Public Utilities. So the next step in that will be for us to get their plans over next door.”
The wind turbine project proposed by Criterion Power Partners, LLC, a subsidiary of California-based Clipper Windpower, would be located on the ridgeline of Backbone Mountain on either side of Gorman Road and near Eagle Rock, with a small portion of the project located on county property and the remainder on private land.
The land was acquired when Garrett County took over operation of the Garrett County Sanitary District, and officials say they were not aware at that time of any lease between the sanitary district and Clipper. Because the land is part of the public water source for both the towns of Loch Lynn and Mountain Lake Park, the county has requested that the erosion study be completed before the company is allowed to proceed.
The town of Mountain Lake Park sent a letter to the PSC requesting a more extensive engineering study to be done on the property and the effect that possible explosives might have on their water supply. Criterion responded that it would comply with all state and local regulations concerning permitting and maintaining water quality.
PSC staff recommended to the commission that the county’s erosion request be included in an approval by the PSC, which would determine whether the Criterion project would be granted an exemption from the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity process.
Through legislation passed last year, a company with plans for power projects generating less than 70 megawatts would bypass the certificate process. While the Clipper project proposed on the same land had been a larger-scale project than Criterion, the reduction to 28 wind turbines allows the Criterion project to fall within the exemption range.
However, the change in the amount of energy being produced, the increased height of the turbines, and the change from Clipper to its subsidiary, Criterion, have been the subject of opposition to the PSC’s possible acceptance of other studies, like the effect on local wildlife, done when the project was first proposed in 2002.
“People testified against, some testified for,” Frank Maisano, spokesman for a wind power coalition, said of the hearing Wednesday. “How it was left was that (Chairman Steven) Larsen, we felt, was relatively positive about the exemption and what it’s about.”
Maisano said that he hopes to hear word on the PSC decision soon, possibly as early as the beginning of May.
By Sarah Moses
25 April 2008
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