Though the renewable energy plants on BLM’s pending applications list are in the West, the tension between preservation and energy generation is national in scope.
Rick Webb, a senior scientist in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, has been fighting a proposed wind installation in the Allegheny Mountains for seven years. Highland New Wind Development is moving forward with plans to place turbines on the privately owned Tamarack Ridge along the border between Virginia and West Virginia. The ridge overlooks the battlefield at Camp Allegheny, where advancing Union forces clashed with wintering Confederate troops intent on defending a crucial mountain pass.
“If you go to this battlefield—the highest elevation Civil War battlefield in the eastern United States, and probably the most pristine—it’s like stepping back in time,” Webb says. “But Highland New Wind Development’s 400-foot turbines would … dominate the view in the area where the primary engagement of forces occurred.” Webb says the fight is complicated because the site is privately held, so it doesn’t require the same kind of federal approvals that would be needed for an industrial wind installation on public land. Moreover, the development site is in Virginia, but the battlefield sits across the border in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, in a sparsely populated corner of the state.
“It’s hard for me to describe the beauty and significance of the panorama here,” Webb concludes. “Hundreds of soldiers lost their lives on this battlefield. While I understand the imperative of energy independence, I also believe there are places where the benefits [of power generation] are not worth the trade-off, and this is one of those places.” Webb says that this fight is likely to rage on for quite some time but that environmental concerns may dovetail with preservation goals to protect the landscape. He points to the group of citizens poised to sue to protect endangered species in the area if the project moves forward: They may succeed in preserving the landscape near the camp.
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