While Iberdrola Renewables has said it will not move forward with a 24-turbine wind project straddling the Windham and Grafton line following a decisive vote, the owners of the 5,000-acre project site have made no such promise.
When asked on Monday, what happens next, Meadowsend Timberlands’ managing forester Jeremy Turner took a breath and said, “What happens now? We’re going to be meeting – the (French) family (which owns MTL) and I – and that’s one of the items we’ll be speaking about and exploring.” Meadowsend Timberlands Limited of New London, N.H. is a 23-year-old family-owned company that manages 30,000 acres of forests in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, including the Stiles Brook property that Iberdrola was eyeing for the largest wind project in the state.
Turner was speaking almost a week after a vote of registered voters of Grafton and Windham as well as a count of surveys sent in by second-homeowners asked their opinion of the project. Iberdrola had said it would abide by the vote of the full-time homeowners vote. In Grafton, 235 registered voters were against the project and 158 were for it; 152 second-homeowners were against the project, 35 were for it and 14 were undecided. In Windham, 180 were against the project and 101 were for it; 171 second-homeowners were against the project, 16 were for it and three surveys came back defective.
Turner said he was disappointed in the vote and found the anti-wind campaigns “very unfair.” But, he added, “Officials in Windham, since the very beginning and right up to the end, haven’t been open to any dialogue. (So) with the misinformation, I was not surprised by the loss” on election day. He called it “a good example of good guys finishing last.”
Turner had been working on the Stiles Brook wind project since 2010, when he called Iberdrola about being one of the wind industry companies to consider building on the tract, which he said is considered “one of the last, best-suited for wind in the state.”
He described the site as being one of the least visible of sites, with an ability to muffle sounds. Turner added, “The roads were already built along the largest utility line in the state – and it has one landowner,” which simplifies buying land and/or securing leases.
As for reaching out to the opposition to try to work together on a plan to move forward, he said, “It’s always on the table: uniting, compromising. We’re always open to evaluate things. The dust certainly hasn’t settled here.” But, he said, with the changing timber industry, “The days of expecting that owning a piece of property and basing your business solely on timber and other wood products is gone. We need to find something that works within the environment that we have now.”
As of yesterday, Anna Vesely, of the wind-opposing Grafton Woodlands Group, said, “I haven’t had much of a chance to give any of it much consideration. The voters and nonvoters expressed themselves very clearly. And they have said a project like this isn’t suitable for these two towns.”
She added that, “Certainly talking with the French family is always a great idea,” but GWG members have not formally discussed the idea.
“Since MTL is our neighbor, I would think they would respect the voters’ wishes, honor the votes of these two towns. … We’re very grateful that Iberdrola has honored their word,” Vesely added.
At this point, she said, her organization is also looking at the bigger picture in Vermont. “The Public Service Board and state agencies have to be more responsive” to the small towns. “And Act 250 should apply to energy projects,” she added.
Calls to several members of the Friends of Windham were not returned.