PLEASANT RIDGE PLANTATION – When resident Retta Giguere stood up to speak at Thursday night’s public hearing, she held a list of questions about a commercial wind project developer’s plan to string transmission lines through part of her town.
The first question on her list, about what appeared to be different information filed in applications to the town and state, became the dominant topic of conversation during the hour-and-a-half meeting and ultimately stalled a vote on whether to grant a permit for the developer to cross transmission wires over the town’s roads.
The incongruity, which the town’s lawyer will review in the coming weeks, would put the transmission lines closer to resident’s homes than they previously thought.
The developer, Independence Wind, which operates Highland Wind LLC, intends to install 39 wind turbines in neighboring Highland Plantation. No turbines are planned for Pleasant Ridge Plantation, but transmission lines are. The lines would pass once over Cross Road and Pleasant Ridge Road and twice over Rowe Pond Road.
Former Gov. Angus King and former Maine Public Broadcasting Corp. president Rob Gardiner lead Independence Wind.
In the permit application filed with the town, it appears the wires are described as passing alongside the existing Central Maine Power Company utility wires. But in the application filed with the Land Use Regulation Commission, it’s clear the wires deviate from the existing CMP lines.
Erik Stumpfel, an attorney for Highland Wind from the firm Eaton Peabody, confirmed the developer intends to not follow the CMP corridor exactly: “It’s not completely abutting the CMP right of way in that exact spot” near Rowe Pond Road, he said.
“That certainly puts it closer to my house,” resident Clark Sherman said.
If townspeople had known, “You would have had more objections,” Giguere told First Assessor Robert Bowden.
Bowden agreed that the application to the town was “very unclear.” Assessors are elected officials in plantations, similar to towns’ selectmen.
“There are families down there with children,” Giguere said, adding she is worried about electromagnetic fields’ impact on people’s health.
Stumpfel said that the National Institutes of Health report “no proven connection” between disease and transmission lines.
Giguere replied that she did not wish to “risk my family’s health on that assumption.”
The public hearing was not a guaranteed part of the permit application process and was only granted after 12 residents signed a petition within 14 days of the developer posting its application notice. About 80 people live in Pleasant Ridge.
The support structures for the wires would be located on private land, for which Highland Wind has easements. The only issue facing Pleasant Ridge assessors is whether to award a permit to string the wires over roads. Without the permit, it’s unlikely the state would approve Highland Wind’s project application.
“This isn’t about how I feel. This is about, ‘Does it meet the criteria of the law?'” assessor Bowden said.
What if a majority of people in Pleasant Ridge don’t want the transmission wires? asked Karen Pease, of Lexington Township. “You basically don’t have control over your own plantation?” she said.
Stumpfel said the law doesn’t let people reject an item because they don’t like it.
Firefighter David Robinson said he was concerned about the wire crossing just 28 feet above Cross Road, which might pose a danger to some logging trucks stacked too high with logs and equipment.
Norman St. Hilaire, an engineer from RLC Engineering who helped design the transmission lines, said it was a “valid safety concern” and “not a big deal” to raise the height.
The public hearing will resume at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Town Office.
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