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ARC turbine battle resumes

DENNIS – Aquacultural Research Corporation owners Richard Kraus, Gail Hart and Susan Machie have resumed their fight to build a 242-foot, 600-megawatt wind turbine on their property at 99 Chapin Beach Road in Dennis. On Friday, April 27, Judge Brian Merrick will set a trial date, and the case will move forward.

“We had a schizophrenic moment,” Krause said Saturday night. “Everybody backs down in these turbine cases, and it’s not my nature to give up. We never followed through. We let it hang, and I was losing sleep over it.” Kraus has persuaded Hart and Machie to spend whatever it takes in legal fees to see the case through.

“I don’t see the turbine happening for two to three years even if we win locally because it will be appealed,” Kraus said. The state of Massachusetts has contributed $45,000 for the project’s feasibility study and is holding a $400,000 Massachusetts Technology Collabortive grant to help fund the project through this year. Should it be necessary, Kraus said, he will file for an extension of the grant. “We have the best people in the state working on this project” he said.

At the end of February, ARC’s owners gave up the fight to build a turbine that would have significantly offset their $150,000 annual energy bills and allowed them to reinvest in the outdated buildings on the property.

Kraus, Hart and Machie first made their plan to build the turbine public in July 2010 at a community meeting at Carlton Hall in Dennis. After gaining Dennis selectmen’s support, they took their plan to the town’s Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Committee, which in late August 2010 approved the request for a certificate of appropriateness.

In early September, Rosemarie Austin of Dennis, who claims to be a “visual abutter,” appealed the local decision on the grounds that it would “obstruct her view and devalue her property,” sending the case to the Regional OKH Historic District Commission, which in late September annulled the Dennis OKH committee’s determination. ARC appealed the annullment in Orleans District Court where in February 2011 Merrick granted the town of Dennis the right to intervene on behalf of ARC. Kraus said the case was not closed, just put on hold.

County plan to buy land

In early March of this year, Bill Clark, director of the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, spoke to Cape shellfish wardens about a plan for the county to purchase ARC’s 39-acre property adjacent to Chapin Beach. Clark said if he can obtain state and federal grants, and if each Cape town agrees to a $10 surcharge on shellfish licenses that would pay off a bond for the remaining cost, the county could seal the land buy.

More than 17,000 shellfish licenses are sold Capewide each year. “We also license more than 200 private shellfish farms, and most buy their seed from ARC,” Clark said. “They would all benefit from a public ownership of the land in perpetuity. This partnership would allow ARC to build a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient facility and lease the land from the county, training people to carry on the business after they retire. Without ARC, I don’t know where the Cape’s shellfish seed would come from. I don’t know what the future of shell fishing on Cape Cod will be if this doesn’t work out.”

Asked if the county would back out should he and his partners prevail in court, Kraus said the county plans to proceed with or without the turbine. “The county isn’t going to take a side,” he said. Clark could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Dennis shellfish warden Alan Marcy said last month that he supports the county’s plan to save ARC, “an integral cog in what we do. To lose the business would not only devastate the Cape’s shellfish industry but also detract from efforts to reduce nitrate levels in our estuaries.” Marcy said he knows of no other location in New England where a similar facility could be built.