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Newfound Lake association opposes wind power plan

BRISTOL – The Newfound Lake Region Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the long-term health and beauty of Newfound Lake, publicly stated its opposition Wednesday to a proposed 37-tower wind farm in three towns surrounding the lake.

“Given the Newfound Lake Region Association’s mission to protect Newfound Lake and its watershed, the NLRA board of trustees, at their fall meeting (on Sunday) voted unanimously to oppose the Wild Meadows Wind Power Project as currently proposed,” the association said in an email letter to members.

The group based its decision on the project’s “potential adverse impact on the region’s natural, social, and economic resources.”

Ed Cherian, the project manager Iberdrola Renewables LLC, of Portland, Ore., the company planning the project, expressed disappointment at the association’s stand. He said the company had hoped to demonstrate that its projects are environmentally safe based on data and studies on its wind farm project in Groton, which goes online in a few weeks.

“We are dismayed,” Cherian said.

“(Iberdrola) had offered to meet with NLRA to convey details about the depth of water quality studies completed for the Groton wind project, and which we would complete for the Wild Meadows project.”

Iberdrola, which built the state’s first large commercial wind farm in Lempster, has already leased the 6,000 acres it needs for the project from landowners in Grafton, Alexandria and Danbury. The towns will be represented during the state’s permitting process for the project, but the project does not need local permits. The project would erect 400-foot turbine towers near the tops of area hills and ridges. Each would be lighted at night.

The project would benefit the towns and create jobs, he said, as the company’s projects have in Lempster and Groton.

The project has not begun the state permitting process, which will likely take a year and will involve many opportunities for public input, Cherian said.

Groton selectmen recently signed a 15-year agreement with the company, which will pay the town $528,000 – roughly equivalent to the most recent town budget – in the first year. Each of that project’s 24 wind turbines will net the town $22,000 in the years that follow.

Opposition to the Wild Meadows project arose this fall from residents in area towns who say the rows of tall towers would ruin the scenery around Newfound Lake and Cardigan Mountain State Park.

The Newfound Lake Wind Watch, a group of concerned residents opposing the project, was formed for the purpose of spreading awareness of potential damage to the area’s “viewshed.”

Cherian said the company will work with the state to demonstrate that “the project will not adversely affect the Newfound Lake watershed.”

“We hope to consult with Newfound Lake Region Association during this process to hear and address their concerns,” he said.