HIGHLAND PLANTATION – About 30 people came out last week in support of a signed petition demanding the permanent withdrawal of Highland Wind’s LLC permit application for a wind turbine facility atop Highland’s five mountains, and abandon any future plans to build an industrial wind plant within the plantation.
Highland Wind LLC, of Brunswick, owned by former Governor Angus King and Rob Gardiner, former president of Maine Public Broadcasting, withdrew their application, with the possibility of resubmitting a revised application in the future. Highland Plantation project opponents are asking the Maine Land Use Regulatory Commission to disallow submission of any further revised applications.
Opponents say the Highland Wind LLC proposal to erect 39 420-foot turbines will result in 18.2 miles of slope-side and ridge-top roads and the excavation of more than 2.5 million cubic yards of mountain soil and bedrock in Highland Plantation.
Those present say the project involves construction of a wind tower on almost every peak in Highland Plantation. Looking from the home of Steven and Arlene Trudeau, the test turbine on Witham Mountain, one third the size of the real towers, was easily visible from their front lawn. They cringe at the thought of wind turbines being on every mountain top in their view.
April 13, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stated that, having worked with the developers since 2007 stated there are wildlife concerns that demonstrate that Highland, as proposed, is not an appropriate locality for an intensive wind energy installation.
Interveners include Friends of Highland Mountains, Friends of Maine’s Mountains, Forest Ecology Network, Greg and Jenn Perkins and Fletcher Mountain Outfitters.
At the press conference on Tuesday, May 10, Highland Plantation resident Rose Stanton, said, “Today, by signed petition, the majority of Highland residents are standing together to shout a resounding no to the industrial wind project… Highland developers have submitted two applications to build turbines on the ridge tops of Witham, Bald, Briggs and Burnt.”
She contended Highland developers withdrew their application because blasting the sides of the mountains will disrupt and destroy the habitats of the bog lemming and the Roaring Book Mayfly. She also said they project would interrupt the migratory flight path of countless birds and bats.
Sporting camp owner Patrice Drummond, resident Carla Dillon-Jones and Heidi Emery spoke out in opposition to the proposal. Emery said they don’t understand the health concerns of wind turbines. “There needs to be more research and people should not be used as guinea pigs… My family has a right to live peacefully in our home. My children should not be guinea pigs.”
LURC is responsible for making decisions on land use issues for the plantation, including wind turbines.
Arlene Trudeau said, “We lived off the grid for five years. We’ve started community power in the last five years, which is costly, solar which is dependable and silent, and wind, which has been generally worthless, noisy with little return.”
Mike Verges, who owns a charter fishing business in Puerto Rico, said he has chosen to live in Highland Plantation. Owning three lots, two and a half acres, eight and a half, and nine and a half, he is concerned about future property values, and has put off building a home in the community. The contour of the mountains will be changed he said.
Jonathan Carter, executive director of the Forest Ecology Network, said Highland is just one of a string of wind projects proposed to interconnect over Maine’s Western Mountains from Bethel to Bingham and beyond by 2030. He said federal grants through stimulus money, funding up to 30 percent of a project’s cost, geared towards alternative energy, notably wind, are causing a flurry of activity, by various investment interests. He said that it’s a get rich scheme for developers. For a $250 million project, a developer could get $80 million up front, he said.
He added that intermitted wind does not make sense because it’s ramping up and down production to go with it to create enough electricity. “I’m not opposed to wind, he said, but mountain top wind in these mountains does not make any sense.” Ocean wind may be a possibility, he said.
Opponents say Highland Plantation stands at the gateway to the Bigelow Preserve and the Appalachian Trail, and is a rural community rich in native wildlife, and the residents of Highland are there because of the beauty of one of the “last undeveloped wilderness regions east of the Mississippi River.”
Not all Highland residents are opposed to the wind project, which would have a substantial effect on the local community property tax base.
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