BREWER, Maine – Industrial wind power projects will be more difficult to site on the west side of Moosehead Lake, after a state planning board voted unanimously Wednesday to remove six unincorporated areas from an expedited wind permitting area.
The Land Use Planning Commission‘s 9-0 vote removed 14 townships and plantations from the area, where environmental reviews of wind projects are fast-tracked to encourage development. They are: Cathance, Concord, Edmunds, Long Pond, Mason, Misery Gore, Molunkus, Salem, Sapling and Sapling Administrative Area 1 townships; Denniston, Pleasant Ridge and Rangely plantations; and Taunton & Raynham Academy Grant.
Of the 14, Denniston, Long Pond, Misery Gore, the two Saplings and Taunton & Raynham are near the lake, along Route 201, said Richard McDonald, a member of the Moosehead Region Futures Committee.
The committee successfully petitioned to remove those areas from the expedited permitting zone in late February under a new state law. Committee members say wind development in those areas would detract from land value, spoil viewsheds and disrupt the tourism industry around the lake.
“We have taken a very strong initial first step. This is an extremely positive development for the Moosehead region and it represents a strong commitment by local citizens to protect it,” McDonald said after the meeting at Jeff’s Catering.
His committee opposes tentative plans by wind power developer EverPower to install 24 wind turbines on ridges near Big Indian Pond, as well as SunEdison’s possible 26-turbine project for Misery Ridge between Rockwood and Jackman. The companies have placed test towers in those areas but have not submitted formal plans, McDonald has said.
Previously, wind farms proposed in the Unorganized Territory – which covers nearly half the state, mostly rural areas in the western and northernmost portions – were automatically fast-tracked for review. The new law, which took effect in January, requires wind-energy developers to seek zoning approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, among other agencies, and follow the regular permitting process if enough local residents submit a petition certified by the state. The threshold is at least 10 percent of a given zone’s registered voters in the most recent gubernatorial election.
“It is just a perfunctory vote. We are just following the legislation involved,” commission Chairman Everett Worcester said.
Anti–wind power groups say the new law restores residents’ rights by triggering hearings in which their input is given weight. But wind-to-energy proponents say the law inhibits the growth of an important industry that has drawn millions of dollars to rural northern Maine. It effectively doubles the permitting process for wind projects, creating investor uncertainty, they say.
SunEdison spokesman John Lamontagne said his organization is reviewing the vote.
“We’re determining if it has any impact on potential projects,” Lamontagne said Wednesday.
An EverPower spokesman could not be reached on Wednesday.
On May 9, the commission voted to remove from the expedited permitting zone several other Somerset County areas. They were: Big Moose, Harfords Point, Moosehead Junction and Sandbar Tract townships; Moxie Gore, Parlin Pond, Rockwood Strip and two plantations, The Forks and West Forks. Three Franklin County areas also were removed, Freeman and Lexington townships and Highland Plantation, as was Trescott Township in Washington County, officials said.
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