More than 75 people stood on the edge of Route 100 across from the entrance to the Lowell wind project early Wednesday afternoon to show their opposition.
Another, smaller group of 20 planned to protest on the ridgeline on property owned by Don and Shirley Nelson of Lowell. At least 15 of those intended to try and hinder blasting by Green Mountain Power’s contractors by standing within a 1,000-foot safety zone, protesters said.
They said that the Nelsons, who are battling GMP in Orleans Superior Court to stop blasting near their property, would not participate in any protests.
Judge Martin Maley is expected to issue an amended temporary restraining order that would give law enforcement officers the legal authority to arrest protesters and charge them for violating his order.
However, Orleans County Chief Deputy Sheriff Phil Brooks, who stopped to check out the protest, said his department had not received the amended order as of Wednesday afternoon. There were no plans to be on the ridgeline Wednesday, Brooks said.
One deputy was on the scene to make sure that the protesters stayed off the traveled portion of the highway.
Brooks said the department learned about the protest on Route 100 by reading The Orleans County Record.
Blasting was scheduled for mid-afternoon, GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said. She didn’t know, as of late Wednesday afternoon, what had happened on the ridgeline.
Lowell wind opponent Steve Wright of Craftsbury, a former Vermont Fish and Wildlife commissioner, said he had an online petition with more than 800 signatures, some international, to present to Vermont’s congressional delegation.
The petition sports a photograph of the flag of the Green Mountain Boys, which Stacy Burke said is flying from a spruce tree on the ridgeline as a symbol of the protest.
The protest on Route 100 was peaceful when it began at 1 p.m., with protesters of all ages holding signs and waving at the occasional motorist who honked in support.
Some of the protesters, such as Burke and Olive Ylin, had participated in the ridgeline protest in the past several weeks. Burke was there Tuesday and had been part of a group willing to stay within the safety zone and risk arrest for violating the court order against it.
Ylin of Elmore, whose trail name is Watershed, said she was willing to go up to the edge of the Lowell wind project property, standing on land owned by the Nelsons, in order to protest. She respected those willing to be arrested, but said she did not want to be.
But she was glad she went. “Climbing the mountain gave me an understanding of the water the mountain holds,” Ylin said.
Little seeps and springs produced water the whole way up the steep eastern side of the ridgeline, she said. “To keep that integrity, we can’t afford to blast.”
Another protester, Jean Rabe of Craftsbury Common, said she would have liked to be on the ridgeline too. But at 78, she couldn’t make the climb.
So Rabe was happy that the wind opponents decided to stage the protest on Route 100, where she could participate with her friends.
“My son said ‘Mom, don’t get arrested,'” Rabe said. “You know what? I don’t care if I do.”
Rabe can see the ridgeline when she drives from Craftsbury Common. The view gives her a sense of peace, she said.
“I think this is a desecration, yes I do,” she said of the wind project.
Protesters, some calling themselves the Occupy Lowell Mountaineers, came from towns throughout the region to express their anger and disappointment, some signs were addressed to GMP and some to politicians:
“ANR – Shumlin’s Puppet.”
“Stop GMP Corporate Bullying.”
“Honk For Solar, Not For Wind.”
“This Is Not Local Power.”
“Greed Mountain Power.”
“GMP = Money Laundering.”
Schnure, standing with security officers at the graveled staging area across Route 100, said she was there to make sure that everyone is safe.
A security officer assisted a protester who was in a wheel chair, allowing her vehicle to park at the staging area and assisting her across the road to the protest line.
The wind project, Schnure said, was determined to be in the public good by the Vermont Public Service Board.
Protesters will not stop the project but could make it more costly by delaying it, she said.
So far, the efforts to hinder blasting have not put GMP behind schedule. “But there is concern,” she said.
GMP wants to have all 21 turbines spinning before federal production tax credits expire at the end of 2012. If blasting is hindered, the project could be delayed by five and a half weeks and cause the loss of $47 million in those tax credits, GMP officials told the court.
The project would still be completed without the credits, officials said.
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