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Anti-wind occupation begins on Vt. Lowell Mountain

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Some opponents of a wind power project planned for the ridge line of northern Vermont’s Lowell Mountain began camping out on nearby property Wednesday, hoping their presence will halt blasting for the project.

Don and Shirley Nelson, who own 600 acres in Albany that abut the project, said they had invited campers to pitch tents 100 feet from their property line and well within the safety zone surrounding where some of the blasting will occur.

“Friends and neighbors have decided that it’s time that somebody just said something,” Shirley Nelson said in a phone interview. “We couldn’t think of any other way to do it. We’ve been ignored through this whole process.”

She said four tents had been pitched as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Nelsons wrote to Mary Powell, CEO of project developer Green Mountain Power, to say campers and hunters would be in the area and urging the company to ensure their safety.

“Our guests will be camping, recreating and hunting in that area for the foreseeable future. We trust you will be respectful of their presence and particularly their safety,” the Nelsons wrote.

GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said blasting had begun on the other side of the mountain and was not expected to near the Nelsons’ property until late fall or early winter.

She said the area would need to be cleared when blasting occurs, and that signs would be posted warning hunters and others of the danger. She could not say what would happen if the campers refused to leave.

“If they’re still there later this winter when we need to do the work, we’ll address it then,” Schnure said. “But there’s certainly time between now and then to work it out.”

Other occupation-style protests in Vermont frequently have ended in arrests and trespassing charges for participants. But since the campers are invited guests of the Nelsons, the trespassing law wouldn’t apply, said Attorney General William Sorrell.

If people are simply camping or hunting with a property owner’s permission, “there’s no criminal violation that comes readily to mind,” Sorrell said.

GMP’s $156 million, 21-turbine wind power project is due to be completed by the end of next year and is expected to provide enough power for 24,000 homes, Schnure said. It has drawn stiff opposition from neighbors and some environmentalists, whose concerns include its effects on wildlife, noise from the turbines and marring unspoiled mountain vistas.