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Decision of a lifetime  

Credit:  Peter Joppe, The Recorder, www.recorder.com 16 November 2011 ~~

We in the town of Shelburne are facing the biggest decision most of us will ever have to make in our lifetimes.

The Mount Massaemet Industrial Wind Development could literally change the face of Shelburne Falls for decades to come. Because of that, we, as citizens, have a responsibility to learn as much as we can about these types of installations. We have a responsibility to participate in the Shelburne zoning hearings if we think that the turbines might have any effect on us, our families, or on the next generations.

Many letters have appeared in this space speaking about the negative health and environmental impacts, including such things as bird kills, forest fragmentation and health effects on humans and animals alike. Other letters have addressed the massive subsidies that this project would receive, effectively reimbursing the developers for the total cost of buying and installing the turbines. Letters have also referred to the very small quantity, and poor intermittent quality of this type of power.

Additionally, it is rather questionable if large-scale wind development could help at all with the concerns it portends to address: slowing down climate change, lessening fossil fuel use, creating sustainability, or shutting down other power sources.

In fact, industrial-scale wind power developments may have the effect of simply taking resources away from what would be truly “moving forward.”

The wind experiment in Europe is not going well. General Electric has admitted that it needs to find new markets for the turbines, as the rest of the world is turning away from this technology. By serendipity or by a carefully laid plan, our federal and state governments are embracing wind with a degree of subsidies that a recent New York Times article labeled “a gold rush.” Those taxpayer dollars that are putting us even further into debt, and the ratepayer costs from our increased electricity bills, will be paying for what other countries are rejecting, with our lawmakers leading the charge. We simply must do better.

This money must be spent more wisely. For example, with an investment of $7,500 per housing unit, homes could reduce their energy use by 25 percent. This bottom-up approach would help all of us by permanently reducing our costs of living, increasing the values of our homes, and creating local jobs, while putting money into our pockets.

I am especially concerned about the impacts for this project on the Deerfield River valley and the surrounding area. The Mohawk Trail is a state-designated scenic highway and we should be concerned about the impacts on tourism for our region and the subsequent negative economic impacts if that industry is harmed.

We should also look to the future and anticipate whether this project might open the door to additional industrial wind developments in our local towns as well as other areas in western Massachusetts. While this site is considered to be “excellent” by wind farm developers, when one uses the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) criteria for wind siting, it is determined to be a very poor site due to its high visibility from the Mohawk Trail and the village of Shelburne Falls. They also consider the proximity to land such as the Audubon Sanctuary and the state forest land surrounding the historic fire tower on Mount Massaemet to be highly undesirable.

Using the AMC criteria, this particular location is a very poor place to put wind turbines. I believe it is a scenic, recreational and ecological treasure. There are few places in New England that combine the characteristics that make our area so unique. The importance of protecting this treasure cannot be overestimated.

Now, a big decision will be made in Shelburne. The town’s zoning regulations have no existing language that deals with the wind turbine siting. This places the siting decision squarely in the hands of the Zoning Board of Appeals. They have vague language that they must work with, part of which is about whether the project, overall, would be good or bad for the town. The five members of the ZBA will decide the fate of this project. If you are concerned, please attend the ZBA hearings, plan to speak and/or to write your comments to the board explaining where you stand on this potential development. Please use this important opportunity to let your feelings be known. As citizens and residents of the area, we are the ones to share what we believe is truly in our best interest.

You do not have to be a Shelburne resident to participate. Buckland and other West County residents could be affected as well. Information about the hearings can be found at www.shelburnewind.info. The hearing will take place on Thursday at Memorial Hall, located upstairs in the Shelburne Town Building on Bridge Street.

Peter Joppe is a Shelburne resident and is the owner of Hillside Nursery. He’s given numerous talks on the history of forest floor ecology, of deciduous forest floor fragmentation, and its effect on interspecies diversity. He is also an expert in rare and endangered native orchids and woodland wildflowers.

Source:  Peter Joppe, The Recorder, www.recorder.com 16 November 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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