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Ragged Mountain turbine talks spawn worries

CAMDEN, Maine – Amid turbulence about the possibility of a wind energy project on top of Ragged Mountain, a citizen group has formed with the intention of stopping any further research into the possibility of placing turbines on the mountain.

Governmental groups, including Camden Energy Committee, have talked for years about alternative energy possibilities for the town, but recently the talks have moved toward researching wind on the mountain. Last month the Select Board created the Ragged Mountain Wind Committee to discuss a wind project on Ragged Mountain.

Now the anti-wind citizen group Friends of Ragged Mountain is meeting weekly to inform the community, stop any wind projects near the mountain and ask the town to create ordinances to prevent other wind projects.

“We want to educate. We’re sure there are advantages and disadvantages, but we haven’t seen the advantages yet,” said Friends of Ragged Mountain member Dorie Klein.

Klein’s group worries about the economic impact on the Camden Snow Bowl, which is on Ragged Mountain; whether roads would have to be built up the mountain and how that would affect drainage into local water supplies; and the noise effects on the valley below.

Bruce Faulkner of Rockport, another member of the group, lives at the bottom of the valley near the water supply.

“The romance of wind has a certain appeal,” he said recently. “Aside from that, there are so many factors about this site. The more you think about it, there isn’t a more inappropriate site.”

So far, the town of Camden formed the wind committee to raise money for a $50,000-$70,000 feasibility study and to gather information from stakeholders from the town and surrounding communities.

Town Manager Roberta Smith said the town is not trying to push wind energy.

“The energy committee was asked to look at alternate sources of energy – wind just happens to be one of them and they did enough to determine that there is energy there,” Smith said Friday.

Ultimately, the wind committee will inform the town if there is enough support and if it is reasonable to put wind turbines on the mountain.

“They still feel there is a lot of data-gathering and community outreach that needs to be done,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Ragged Mountain are working on outreach, too. So far, Klein and her fellow volunteers have obtained more than 100 signatures from community members who say they are, “alarmed at the prospect of loss and destruction that would accompany wind-power development on Ragged Mountain,” and are in “opposition to the development of wind power on Ragged Mountain.”

Simply put, “we have to stop it,” Klein said.

Friends of Ragged Mountain member Dana Strout said the town and its committees are not taking responsibility for moving forward with the talks about wind on Ragged Mountain.

“It is a runaway freight train and no one claims they are driving it,” Strout said.

Strout said both the energy committee and the Select Board have told the Friends of Ragged Mountain that they have no desire to create a wind project there.

“Everyone in Camden is washing their hands of this thing,” Strout said.

Camden Energy Committee member Rick Knowlton said Friday afternoon the energy committee has been meeting mostly to discuss whether there could be a community wind project, “much in the flavor of Vinalhaven,” to economically benefit the town. The committee has discussed Ragged Mountain because research has proven there is a wind resource there, Knowlton said.

The committee has talked with experts and companies involved with wind power.

“What [the committee] is not doing is developing a plan to install wind turbines on Ragged Mountain. It is the farthest thing from what we’ve been doing,” said Knowlton. “When it comes to Ragged Mountain and a wind project plan, there isn’t one.”

Camden will hold two sessions about wind power in October at Camden Public Library. The first is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5, when students from the local high school will speak about their project to bring wind to Camden Hills Regional High School. The second meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, when Friends of Ragged Mountain will speak to the public about its views.