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Wind-power foes object to forum sites

ALEXANDRIA – Opponents of a wind-power project along ridgelines near Newfound Lake and Cardigan Mountain are questioning why public workshops to explain the contentious issue are being held in areas not directly affected by the construction of the eye-catching towers.

Five statewide citizen polling workshops are planned during the first two weeks of December. New Hampshire residents or property owners can preregister for one workshop, at which consultants will present background material on the state’s siting process. There will be discussion and then keypad “voting” or polling on options to address gaps or deficiencies in the process.

Wind Watch President Lori Lerner noted that the meeting places are close to home bases of support for business interests that last winter helped defeat legislation asking for a moratorium on new energy projects.

“It appears the venues chosen are in areas that are not impacted by industrial wind projects or Northern Pass. It would make sense to hold a meeting in an area like Newfound Lake that currently has one wind plant operational (to its north in Groton) and is facing three new proposals for industrial wind facilities, to include the potential for up to 100 40-50 story wind turbines, in addition to the existing 24 turbines.”

The workshops will take place on Dec. 3 at Manchester Memorial High School cafeteria in Manchester; on Dec. 4 at the Groveton High School gymnasium in Groveton; on Dec. 5 at the Keene Recreation Center in Keene; on Dec. 9 at the town of Newington Main Hall in Newington; and on Dec. 10 at the Winnisquam Regional High School cafetorium in Tilton.

“We can expect that the Nashua-Manchester Chambers, the IBEW, Northern Pass and other energy developers will encourage their members and advocates to preregister for workshops,” Lerner said.

John Dineen of Bridgewater heard the news and issued a quick question to New Hampshire Wind Watch, a group monitoring new wind-energy projects in the state.

“Do you think we can get a change from Winnisquam Regional High School to Plymouth State University?” Dineen asked. “This is the place where it’s happening, not the other lake.”

The sponsors of the bills said Thursday that they were studying that request.

The workshops are being held to gather residents’ input. Each workshop will include brief presentations on the current Sight Evaluation Committee process, challenges and alternatives, as well as public discussions.

Sign-ins for the workshops will begin at 5 p.m., and the meetings will start at 6 p.m. and are expected to end about 9:30 p.m.

Sponsored by state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, and others earlier this year, Senate Bill 99 created the committee to study the state’s energy-siting process. There has been recent widespread dissatisfaction with the process, especially among Northern Pass electric line and wind turbine opponents.

Project opponents are questioning whether the Site Evaluation Committee, which has authority over new energy plans in the state and is the subject of the Senate bill, has the proper resources and manpower to consider the projects coming before it.

The committee report is due at the end of December, and the study has now reached its final stage in which broad citizen input is requested. Raab Associates is the consultant that will be soliciting opinions on behalf of the coordinating committee, which includes Forrester, Rep. Suzanne Smith, D-Hebron, and others.