LOWELL – Protesters blocked the crane path on the Lowell wind site for about two hours Monday morning, leaving before police and local reporters could arrive.
About 20 protesters arrived at the ridgeline road under construction by Green Mountain Power contractors at 7:30 a.m. and stayed until 9:30 a.m., according to GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure.
They left the site before police could respond and before local reporters could arrive to cover the protest.
The protesters shut down construction at the site where GMP is preparing to erect 21 industrial-grade wind turbines next year.
Some of the protesters had been arrested and cited for trespassing a week ago during a similar blockade, Schnure said. Others have been involved in protests, she said. And some wore masks.
Some wore bear costumes with signs saying “Can’t Find My Den,” said protest spokesman Steve Wright in a statement Monday. Others wore T-Shirts saying “Ridges Are Not Renewable.”
Last Monday, protesters conducted a similar blockade on the wind site, only they waited at the site until police arrived and were then arrested along with one reporter who did not have permission to be on the property. GMP invited the reporter, Chris Braithwaite of The Chronicle, and others to the site Monday.
During last week’s protest, construction crews built a detour around the protest to allow construction to continue. But on Monday, a protester stood in front of a bulldozer, Wright said, stopping the detour.
The protesters posted an alert on their website during the weekend about the potential protest. Then on Sunday and Monday morning, they alerted local newspapers that have covered events closely, including The Record, about the pending protest.
Protesters wanted to highlight their view that GMP does not have the legal right to part of the property on the ridgeline.
Neighboring landowners Don and Shirley Nelson say they own part of the ridgeline where the crane path is located. They have raised that issue in court.
GMP has leased the property from landowner Trip Wileman of Lowell.
“It is staggering to view the scale of the destruction of the ridgeline,” Tim Colman of Albany said in the protesters’ statement.
“How can it be considered OK for GMP to blow up the mountaintop when this property ownership has not been resolved?” protester Peter Romans of Greensboro asked.
Stacy Burke of Craftsbury said the cost of the project, in the impact on the environment, outweighs the benefits.
Once the protest began, GMP contacted state police to deal with trespassers, Schnure said.
Then GMP contacted local reporters, offering to provide safety training, protective gear and transportation to the ridgeline crane path for any reporter who wanted to go and cover the protest.
By 9:30 a.m., the protesters had stopped the blockade and left the ridgeline, calling it quits for the day – before the media and police could arrive. Police were on the way to the site when the protesters called off the blockade and left on their own accord, she said.
Several reporters who had not been on a guided tour took the opportunity to see the site, Schnure said.
“It is unfortunate that the opponents, who participated in the year-long regulatory review process with their own lawyers and experts, have decided to resort to breaking the law,” Schnure said in a statement released by GMP Monday afternoon. “Their actions create unacceptable safety risks to them and the 200 construction workers at the site, increase the cost of the project for members of Vermont Electric Cooperative and customers of Green Mountain Power, and cause law enforcement to leave the local communities they serve.”
The state’s utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board issued a certificate of public good to GMP for the project, allowing the construction to begin.
Appeals are under way while construction continues.
Blasting is complete near the Nelson property line. The access road to the crane path is almost complete, GMP stated last week.
Conduit installation has begun along the access road down from the ridgeline, as well as along the crane path.
Clearing for the collector line, which will bring electricity down from the turbines, is nearly complete.
Clearing along the crane path is half complete.
Excavation for four turbine pads is nearly complete and work on the foundations is under way.
Blasting operations continue to the north and the south along the crane path. The rock from those operations is being used to construction storm-water systems and the crane path, GMP officials stated.
Work is expected to continue into January while weather conditions make it possible.
Transmission line work also continues to handle the electricity from the turbines to Route 105 and the Lowell and Jay substations, which are under construction.
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