September 29, 2011

Wind opponents protest project by camping in

Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, 29 September 2011

LOWELL – Opponents to the wind power project planned for Lowell Mountain’s ridge line have begun an occupation designed to halt blasting for the project.

They have set up four tents at the edge of the wind project on land owned by neighboring property owners Don and Shirley Nelson of Albany, who adamantly oppose the project and its 21 large wind turbines.

“Friends and neighbors” are taking turns staying in the tents erected Wednesday, Shirley Nelson said.

The Nelsons wrote project developer Green Mountain Power’s CEO Mary Powell in a letter released Wednesday, asking the company to ensure the campers’ safety.

Blasting to make way for a crane path on the ridge line and a turbine site near the Nelson property line is not scheduled to take place until as late as November, GMP spokeswoman Dottie Schnure said Wednesday.

The company would want to clear the area where the campers are when blasting crews approach, Schnure said.

Schnure said she has not seen the camp site but said it would be within the blasting safety limits if it is right on the Nelson property line, Schnure said.

As to what might happen if they’re still there when it is time for blasting in that area, Schnure said the company would address that question when the time comes.

The Nelsons have fought against the idea of wind turbines on the mountain for almost a decade. Shirley Nelson said people believe they have not had a say in the regulatory process and are doing this to make a statement.

Nelson declined to identify who is currently staying at the tents on the mountain.

“We have talked about doing something like this for some time,” she said of her friends and neighbors.

“What else do you do?”

She expects that people will take turns manning the tents.

Hunters and recreational hikers have camped on the mountain on the Nelson property for years, without needing permission, she said.

In the letter to GMP, the Nelsons politely advised that “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.”

They also advise that hunters are often on their land without their permission, since they don’t post the property.

“We would appreciate receiving written confirmation that no fly-rock from your blasting will trespass or intrude on our property and that nobody will be endangered.”

Schnure said that GMP would write the Nelsons to say that they will alert them when the construction on that part of the wind turbine site will begin.

GMP wants to alert those camping there that the wind project site is a construction site and people need permission to access it. GMP requires tight control on access, she said.

Signs marking the construction zone were in the process of going up Tuesday, Schnure said.

There are rules that address how blasting should be conducted in public areas, she said.

As far as Schnure is aware, no one has trespassed on the wind project site.

Construction began in early September. Trees have been cut on the ridge line in preparation for road construction.

AP contributed to this report.

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