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Many oppose Mass Audubon turbine plans

WELLFLEET – A big turnout is expected on Thursday, Sept. 19, when the zoning board of appeals hears the application submitted by Bob Prescott, executive director of the Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, for variances to construct a 120-foot high wind turbine on the sanctuary’s grounds.

The zoning board opened the hearing on Aug. 15 and then, at Prescott’s request, continued it to Sept 19.

In the application, Audubon proposes to construct a Gaia-Wind 133-11kW wind turbine that will be placed on a 120-foot monopole or tower. The turbine would consist of two blades and it is characterized as a “small” or “micro” turbine in that this design is made for farms, small businesses and community projects, the application states.

“The society has made a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint,” the application states. “The long-term goal of the group is to make the property discussed in this application ‘net zero’ for electricity usage – and with the installation of this proposed wind turbine, it is expected that this goal will be met for self-sufficient electrical generation on site.”

Wind turbines are limited in the area to a maximum height of 65 feet from grade to center of the rotary. Audubon seeks a variance for 120 feet from grade to center of the rotor.

Several people turned out at the Aug. 15 hearing to make sure there was no discussion of the proposal by the zoning board

A number of people have submitted letters to the zoning board or to Mass Audubon, and to Prescott regarding this proposal.

“In our opinion, we hope you will reject the proposal of 120-foot turbine,” Kenneth and Nancy Reisinger of Wellfleet wrote to the zoning board. “We have lived on Blue Heron Road for 14 years and enjoyed the tranquility of the area overlooking the Audubon. The Audubon already has solar panels that should be sufficient for their needs. We cannot understand how the Audubon, which protects the wildlife, would even propose such a structure. The money would be better spent on educating our children on preserving nature and the environment.”

Carl S. Back, an attorney, sent the zoning board a letter stating that when he first heard of Audubon’s proposal, “My first reaction was ‘Are you kidding me?’ He noted he recently read that Sandwich, which had constructed two wind turbines a few years ago, “was forced to shut them down because of persistent noise violations throughout the night and lingering and severe health complaints from persons living nearby. “Sandwich must now deal with having to find the money to deconstruct these turbines, he said. “Why does Audubon need this turbine here and now?”

Back said, “I demand that this neighbor be subjected to the exact scrutiny that a private party would receive anywhere within Wellfleet. It should be treated no differently because it is a conservationist, non-profit entity. I personally believe it can utilize its funds in a way that would more comprehensively suit its mission to conserve and restore the natural ecosystem.”

In a letter to Prescott, Al and Kathy Weyman of Brewster said they were “surprised to hear that you are considering construction of an industrial wind turbine at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. I am sure you must be aware that these machines kill bats and birds. It seems so out of place to locate such a machine at the sanctuary. Please consider solar, geothermal and energy conservation measures more carefully. Our membership depends on your decision.”

Kerry Kearney of Sandwich wrote to Prescott, “I have to question your vision when I hear that you are considering erecting a wind turbine in the midst of a wildlife sanctuary. No doubt there are serious concerns about our species’ impact on our environment, but aren’t you making things worse? Wind turbines are just plain threatening to birds. Imagine if some benevolent entity purported to create a safe, peaceful environment just for you, and then he puts a giant food processor in your path. Why don’t you consider a passive solar array or put your effort (and our money) into conservation and education? … I’ve always respected the Audubon Society, but this move makes me question whether I’ve been putting my faith (and money) into the wrong organization.”

C. Gilman of Dennis wrote to Prescott, “As a birder with ties to Cornell University and other ornithology organizations worldwide, I am shocked at the position that you have taken in support of the industrial turbine proposed to be erected at the Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary. As a resident of a neighboring Cape community, I have visited the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary many times to study and enjoy the birds, as well as bats and other wildlife. It is inconceivable to me that you and [Mass. Audubon] would endorse erection of an industrial turbine to dominate this pristine landscape and to disrupt the natural environment with man-made noise, vibrations and visuals that are disturbing to humans and wildlife and pose a deadly threat to bird life and bats. With many energy alternatives to consider, we should not be sacrificing the sanctity of [the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary] to the interests of big wind energy.” Gilman attached a link to a story about, he wrote, “the horrible death by turbine of a rare bird in the United Kingdom. Please do not have your name and the name of the Mass. Audubon Society attached to ugly future articles like this one, which are publicized around the world.”