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Citizen action is gaining momentum, as it should

As you drive westward along Route 80 in northern California, there is a section between Vacaville and Vallejo with a stretch of rolling, grass-covered hills that change color with the seasons. Some have speculated that these hills would be great sites for hundreds of industrial wind turbines. However, the entire region has been declared a recreational area, and therefore off limits for wind turbines. Wow!

How different things are here on the East Coast, where Fairhaven’s Bike Path Extension, clearly a recreational area, is to be the site of two giant, industrial wind turbines in close proximity to each other and to nearby residents. It’s hard to believe that the Conservation Commission has not protested such a move. Migratory birds are often seen in the selected area, and it is a fact that wind turbines would be a clear danger to them. The “infrasound” of wind turbines is particularly detrimental to bats. Let it be remembered that bats feed on mosquitoes, part of the balance of nature.

It’s said that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. In Fairhaven, protesting citizens get stonewalled, chastised, ignored and called names such as “political malcontents,” a favorite expression of Selectman Dr. Brian Bowcock from a few years ago. That situation may be about to change.

The malcontents do succeed now and then, as in the case of the sludge treatment debacle of recent history when Executive Secretary Jeffrey Osuch and Dr. Bowcock were beating the drums to bring sludge from surrounding communities to Fairhaven to be treated in the same general vicinity as the planned turbines. Citizen action and the dissemination of factual, objective information defeated that move, and the neighbors were spared the aroma of such a rotten deal.

There are reasonable health concerns or issues in regard to having industrial turbines located so close to residential and school areas, concerns that cannot callously be dismissed simply because there is not total agreement among scientific experts at the moment. The Falmouth experience should raise a red flag large enough to get the attention of the Fairhaven Board of Health and give the Board of Selectman second thoughts about the potential disaster, which they most certainly have the power to prevent.

What a wonderful world it would be if Fairhaven’s “town counsel” felt an obligation to recognize and defend the rights of ordinary citizens to protect themselves from dangerous decisions emanating from Town Hall. I suppose that could or would happen if the turbines were to be located in the Fort Phoenix area. Instead, they are intended for the same general neighborhood already plagued by the nauseating scent of the sewage treatment plant. That odor problem was supposed to have been resolved several years ago. Promises, promises!

There is strength in numbers, and they’re beginning to add up as more and more people are joining together to fight the turbines and challenge the Fairhaven “establishment.” That’s good news for Fairhaven. Hopefully the day will soon come when the selectmen’s turbine project will go the way of the sludge treatment plant proposal and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. If there is a lawsuit from the developer, the blame will fall upon the Board of Selectmen and the less-than-open way in which the project was pursued and resurrected.

Richard T. Clark lives in Fairhaven.