It was supposed to be a milestone for Green Mountain Power, but an equipment delivery to Lowell Mountain turned into a nightmare Monday.
It started off as a peaceful protest. About 150 opponents of commercial wind farms gathered outside the base of Lowell Mountain to protest the arrival of the first turbine parts. One voice was louder than the rest.
“Lowell is almost like the sacrificial lamb,” said Ira Posner, a protest organizer.
Critics believe the 21 turbines planned for the Lowell ridgeline will destroy views and lower property values. Despite the project’s certificate of public good they’re not backing down.
“What we’re trying to do is to make this an example of bad decision making for the entire state so that it doesn’t happen again on some other ridge line,” Steve Wright, a protestor.
On the other side of Route 100, Green Mountain Power was preparing for a milestone. Trucks carrying blades and towers from Island Pond were scheduled to arrive at the job site.
“We’re not blocking this blade coming in. We’re blocking it with our presence and our message,” Posner said.
But as the truck crested the hill, the protestors changed their minds – dozens flooded the roadway forcing the truck to stop. Posner was the first in handcuffs, followed by another opponent. The arrests ignited a firestorm of protest that the Lamoille County Sheriffs weren’t prepared for.
It was several minutes before a state trooper arrived and he couldn’t single handedly control the crowd either. Green Mountain Power’s attempts to rationalize with the crowd also failed.
Everyday, from now until September, 120 truck loads will make their way from Island Pond to Lowell, but if these protests continue, police will find themselves in a tough spot.
“I’m not going to fill you guys full of crap,” one trooper told protestors. “There’s two options you’ll have.”
Troopers told the protestors they could continue demonstrating on the shoulder or face arrest if they stayed in the street. They came close to compromise a few times.
“It’s time to back off. We’ve got to obey these guys,” said Don Nelson, a protestor.
But the majority didn’t budge until police agreed to release the arrested.
“We have done our job here. We have made our statement,” said Will Young, a protestor.
After a two hour standoff, the first turbine tower finally make it past the crowd. GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure says the slight delay won’t significantly impact the project. “We’re going to get this project built and it’s going to be built by the end of the year,” she said.
State and local police as well as border patrol responded to the standoff. Law enforcement called it a major drain on resources that left many parts of the state without coverage.