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Citing site concerns, Windham Select Board asks Iberdrola to suspend wind project

The Select Board of the Town of Windham voted 2 to 1 at its Monday night meeting to send a letter to Iberdrola Renewables asking the Spanish wind turbine company “to suspend your involvement with this project immediately” and offering to go into negotiations with landowner Meadowsend Timberlands in an attempt to “acquire” the Stiles Brook property “so that it might be preserved for the good of us all as opposed to its being utilized to enrich parties with no concern for our town, our region, and our people.”

Iberdrola is hoping to build 20 500-foot turbines in Windham and eight in Grafton.

The letter comes in response to identical letters dated June 13 from Iberdrola development manager Jenny Briot, one addressed to Windham Select Board chair Frank Seawright and one addressed to Grafton Select Board chair Al Sands.

A copy of the letter to Briot, obtained by The Telegraph, is signed by Select Board members Frank Seawright, who is also chair, and Maureen Bell as well as Bob Bingham, chair of the Planning Commission. (Select Board member Kord Scott voted against sending the letter.)

The letter states that the site is unsuitable for such a project on many fronts and that the “Windham Town Plan expressly forbids industrial wind and is based on years of careful study.”

The letter goes on to detail problems related to topography, flooding and erosion, risks to wildlife, the degradation of water quality, and peril to human inhabitants.

The flooding section concludes, “Most importantly, Windham will not support a project that places our downstream neighbors at increased risk for flooding. We take an ethical and moral stance in relation to our neighbors in Grafton, Saxtons River, and Cambridgeport, and we abide by the dictum proposed by Wendell Berry: ‘Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.’ ”

You can read the full letter here.

Reached on Tuesday afternoon, Select Board member Maureen Bell said the purpose of the letter was to reiterate to Iberdrola “the point that the area is not suited to an industrial scale wind installation.”

She said the the town would like to acquire the 3,000 Windham acres of the 5,000 acre total, but not necessarily through a monetary exchange.

Answering a request from the Telegraph by email, Briot said she had not yet received the document and so she could not comment by publication time. We will update the story when we hear more from her.

Nancy Tips, a Windham resident whose home is about half a mile from seven of the proposed turbines, said that “the letter ­is exactly what Windham said to (Iberdrola) four years ago … that it went against the Town Plan. … it’s absolutely clear in the Town Plan.”

Tips, who is also a member of the Friends of Windham, which describes itself as “fostering rational discussion of renewable energy ideas and proposals,” added that the only reason Iberdrola was given a Certificate of Public Good by the Public Service Board to erect three test towers to collect wind data was “because the Town Plan doesn’t specifically prohibit measuring devices.”

Tips added that the opposition in Windham – which she thinks might be at least 50 percent of the 419 full time residents and most of the 400 who claim Windham as a second residence – is not about homeowners worried about losing their views. She said that, instead, a concern is “shadow flicker,” which is caused when light shines through the spinning arms, acting like a strobe light and triggering migraines in some people.

When asked if this letter might influence Grafton’s decision, Tips said, “I would hope so.”