ROXBURY – A proposal to build four wind turbines nearly 500 feet tall on North Twin Mountain in Roxbury drew opposition from conservationists and others at a public hearing on Jan. 7 at the Town Office.
Nearly half of the 25 people attending testified, many of them having ties to Mahoosuc Land Trust in Bethel. The organization, which has more than 1,000 members, is dedicated to protecting the natural and cultural treasures in the Mahoosuc Mountain Range.
Area residents’ primary concern was that Roxwind LLC’s towers would be only 2.4 miles from Whitecap Mountain, a popular hiking spot in Rumford, and spoil the 360-degree view from the summit.
The 492-foot turbines would be about 83 feet taller than those on Record Hill in Roxbury and about 1 mile closer to Whitecap Mountain.
Bob Iles of Bethel, a member of the Mahoosuc Land Trust, said the state invested $243,000 from Land for Maine’s Future funds toward the original $750,000 purchase of Whitecap to preserve its views and the enjoyable hiking experience for the public.
“We’re passionate, not only about the mountain, which people have hiked for over a hundred years, but also about the 360-degree panoramic view from the summit.”
“We spent two years, raising over $500,000 in grants and donations from over 450 people,” he said. “These people contributed because they also liked hiking Whitecap. They loved the view they got when they reached the top.”
He displayed a notebook containing all the hiker sign-in sheets for the past 10 years on Whitecap, noting hikers came not just from all over Maine, but from more than two-thirds of the country and four foreign countries.
He said the small project, with the taller towers, will close the visual gap between Record Hill and the Spruce Mountain wind turbines, the latter in Woodstock.
“I ask you to seriously consider the significant scenic value of Whitecap and to reject this project,” Iles said.
Maine Ski Hall of Fame member Leon Akers, 83, of Andover, also a member of Mahossuc Land Trust, said he’s been going to Whitecap since he was 3 or 4 years old. He said Roxwind’s project “would be an eyesore to anybody that goes up on Whitecap. There’s a 360-degree view up there. I’m opposed to this project because it’s really not a good place for it.”
Another opponent of the 15.4 megawatt project, Jon Starr of Rumford, said he’s been to just about every 3,000-foot peak in Maine and New Hampshire, and there are very few peaks that compare to Whitecap.
Marcel Pollock of Woodstock said, “There’s no other mountain that’s so easy to hike up to that has the kind of view that Rumford Whitecap has. … .But towers that are 2.4 miles away and of that height would really trash the view … The cost here really outweighs the benefits,” he said.
Kirk G. Siegel, executive director with Mahoosuc Land Trust, said the closest Record Hill tower, visible from Whitecap, is 4.6 miles away, and the towers on Spruce Mountain, visible from Whitecap, are more than 8 miles away.
He said the preserve lands at Rumford Whitecap Mountain Preserve have been acquired by Mahoosuc Land Trust over 11 years with the help of hundreds of individual donors and public and private grants, in three separate purchases which total over 1,100 acres. An active group of volunteers works hard to maintain the recreational access enjoyed by the public for decades.
Siegel said the Department of Environmental Protection’s consultant who reviewed Roxwind’s proposal concluded that the application did not adequately consider the visual effects of land clearing and grading, as seen from Whitecap.
An independent study prepared for the DEP by LandWorks also questions whether the proposed towers would detract from the scenic value and the enjoyment of the thousands of people who hike Whitecap.
Roxwind LLC has submitted a permit application to the DEP. The project would include access roads plus overhead and underground collection lines.
The power generated would be fed into existing Central Maine Power lines at the base of the mountain. Access to the towers would be south from Rte. 120 on Horseshoe Valley Road.
To build the project, 1.7 miles of road and crane road, 24 to 36 feet wide, and 4 pad areas approximately 1 to 2 acres in size would be cut from the forest. The total project is estimated to require clearing of 16.9 to 18.4 acres. Following completion of the project, all except 3.5 acres would be re-vegetated.
A public hearing on whether the project meets statutory and regulatory licensing requirements was held during the afternoon on Jan. 7 to take testimony from the applicant and intervenors.
The Landworks report, RoxWind’s application and related materials can be seen at www.maine.gov/dep/land/projects/roxwind.
In an email dated Jan. 9, Lindsay Deane-Mayer, project manager for RoxWind LLC, wrote that, as stated in the Visual Impact Assessment for the project, the “RoxWind Project turbines will be visible from this viewpoint [the Mahoosuc Land Trust’s portion of Rumford Whitecap] at distances of 3.5 to 4.2 miles” rather than the 2.4 miles that was often repeated at the hearing.
While the closest turbine is physically 2.4 miles from the nearest boundary of the Mahoosuc Land Trust’s property, the turbines are not visible from that location.
“In addition, as determined by our consultant, the four turbines proposed for the RoxWind Project would occupy a horizontal field of view of only 6 degree (approximately 3 thumb widths, seen at arms’ length), or less than 1.7 percent of a 360 degree view,” she said.
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