LOWELL – Early Monday afternoon, the dust was far from settled at the staging area for Green Mountain Power’s large wind-energy project on Lowell Mountain.
Crane crews wrangled tower sections into place on trucks. The project’s first turbine hub, its drive train and 60-yard-long blade followed suit, up the unpaved access road to the ridge line.
By noon, none of the 80 or so protesters who had gathered Monday morning across Vermont 100 remained. The highway traffic they had blocked for two hours was back to normal – as was the 21-turbine Kingdom Community Wind project.
“We’re still on schedule and on budget,” said Dorothy Schnure, spokeswoman for Green Mountain Power, the project’s developer.
Kingdom Community is due to come on line in December.
Up close and in parts, the scale of the project – particularly the sweeping, aeronautical expanse of those blades – reflects its ambition. It is designed to reliably produce 63 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for 24,000 homes.
But the ways and means electricity will be generated from the strong winds above Lowell Mountain (and other Vermont ridgetops) remain controversial. Opponents decry the disruption of mountaintop wildlife habitat and the transformation of a signature, upland view-scape.
On Monday, Vermont State Police took two of the protesters into custody, according to protester Vicky Lewis.
Opponents of the wind project dissolved the human roadblock after the two were released with citations, Lewis said.
No summary of the incident was released Monday evening by State Police.
“There were some tense moments,” said Steve Wright of Craftsbury, and one of the protest leaders. “The state police were extremely helpful and cordial, if you can use these words in this situation. There are some frustrated people who feel they haven’t been listened to on this issue.”
Schnure agreed with Wright’s appraisal of police procedures. But she took issue with his rationale, and the road delays inflicted by the protesters.
“It’s been an extensive review process, and many of our opponents participated in that process,” GMP’s Schnure said. “Today they chose a different route – to make their views known by disrupting traffic in Lowell.”
The Vermont Public Service Board awarded the project a certificate of public good last year – following an overwhelming vote of approval by Lowell residents in March 2010.
Project workers, numbering about 200, had been alerted in advance of the protest, and other large components had been delivered Friday in anticipation of Monday’s slow-down, Schnure said.
The utility hired extra sheriff’s deputies as a precaution against delay, she added, but traffic issues prompted local law enforcement to call in extra help.
Lowell Town Clerk Nanette Bonneau said the passage through the village of large, truck-borne tower and turbine components was becoming routine among residents.
Through-traffic on Vermont 100 was able to bypass the blockade by taking Mink Farm Road, Bonneau said.
Contributing: Associated Press.
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