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A wind power battle brews in the Kingdom

The controversy continues over wind turbines in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Tuesday dozens of people turned out in Irasburg to speak out against a series of towers slated for Lowell that will be visible in nearby communities.

“We can’t continue to let this project go forward, ruining our ridgeline, ruining our natural beauty in the state of Vermont,” said Rep. Michael Marcotte, R-Newport.

The group is urging Vermont Electric Co-op customers to vote “no” on a multi-million dollar transmission line upgrade by the co-op to support the Green Mountain Power project.

“Take a ride up 91 and look at Sheffield,” Marcotte said. “You can see the two cranes that are standing up getting ready to erect those, miles away they are very visible, can you imagine what those are going to look like when those towers are up and the blades are on?”

Those towers are already going up.

Robert Booth, who owns Bob’s Quick Stop in Irasburg, says the benefits to building the towers in Lowell will be small and short-lived.

“They’re going to bring specialized people in to do specialized work, they’ll give us a few bones to keep us kind of happy, but they’re going to go away and we’re stuck with what’s left,” Booth said.

VEC CEO David Hallquist says the majority of his customers support efforts to expand wind power in Vermont.

“We’re really counting on the silent majority, if you look, we do a survey, we have 34,000 members, 78 percent of our members support wind even if it is in their viewshed,” Hallquist said.

Hallquist says the upgrades are needed and if VEC doesn’t team up with Green Mountain Power, ratepayers will be picking up a much larger tab.

“Green Mountain Power can always use CVPS transmission to get the power out. And if they did go with CVPS, then we wouldn’t get Green Mountain Power sharing in the project and it would cost our members more money. It would go from a $5 million project, if we had to do it alone, it would be an $8.9 million project,” Hallquist said.

Opponents acknowledge a no vote on the upgrades may not pull the plug on the turbines but say it could buy them time to continue to speak out against the plan with hopes for a change in course.

“It is at least a voice and an opportunity for us to get the word out and get the truth out and stand together and say no,” said Rep. Vicki Strong, R-Albany.

Vermont Electric Co-op customers will be asked to vote on the planned upgrades by mail toward the end of this month.