Update: Saddleback Ridge Wind Project, Carthage, Maine

This is a copy of a post I wrote for my personal blog a few days ago. Thought I'd repost it here.

Update: Saddleback Ridge Wind Project, Carthage, Maine
Do you have a special place? That place you've been visiting with your family since you were a kid? Somewhere that you now bring your own children? If so, get a hold of it in your mind--the way you feel when you visit, the people you reconnect with at the used bookstore or the little bakery in town, summer breezes, the call of the loons, that first dip in cool water. Got it?

I think many of us have one of these sacred places--sacred to us by our own definition and of the others who share it. Some things may have changed over the years. An old camp gets new siding, another a new dock, maybe someone trades in their motor boat for a Ski-Doo (how annoying). But mostly, you can count on the basics being the same--the lake doesn't really change, the hills or mountains certainly don't change much.

Then one summer you return to find that your slice of heaven has been altered in a way you couldn't have imagined. Someone has gone and put an array of 430 foot turbines on the top of that mountain ridge you look out on--that ridge that has looked the same for the decades you've been visiting. Oh, it's a wind farm! And with it a new road. You've seen pictures of these turbines in barren Texas plains and you figured it was an OK thing because there is no one living or playing around them. You go into town to chat up the locals and discover this has been in the works for two years (first you've heard of it) but what could be done? The laws are on the books, the private landowners made some serious cash, and the people in that neighboring town said they don't really care about the mountain anyway. You've been told you should be happy about this green energy called wind power, but all you can feel is sadness. Ruining a mountain doesn't feel green. Things will never be the same. When night falls, you see the eight red aviation lights flash, towering over the darkening landscape. When the wind blows, you hear and feel a thumping sound coming across the lake. You wonder if there's someplace else out there where maybe you could get away to where all you see is stars. The next day, you take your yearly scenic drive of the area or maybe climb a mountain. To your surprise, you find that there are five more ridgelines with the same type of development all within 20 miles of each other. What was different about Maine is gone...

And now for the update. In the fall, Patriot Renewables of Quincy, MA filed a permit application with the DEP to erect about a dozen industrial-scale wind turbines (over 400 feet tall) along Saddleback Ridge in Carthage, Maine. The full permit app plus subsequent comments from state agencies can be found here: http://www.maine.gov/dep/blwq/docstand/sitelaw/Selected%20developme...
When the application was filed, Friends of Maine's Mountains (http://www.friendsofmainesmountains.com/), with the help of Attorney Rufus Brown, submitted hundreds of signatures petitioning the Maine DEP to hold a public hearing. His letter can be found at the permit app link above. This would allow testimony to be presented and experts to be cross-examined. This differs from a public meeting which is all the DEP has ever granted in other projects. This request for a hearing was denied. Only a public meeting will be allowed and scheduled for sometime mid-February. Those who will be most effected, non-participating landowners within the adverse sound and flicker zones, should be there as should anyone else who lives and recreates in the area who would like an opportunity to comment.

Originally, Patriot Renewables intended to erect additional turbines on Saddleback Mountain itself. While all turbines built on the ridgeline (at a lower elevation) will require significant blasting, you can imagine what would be required to build turbines on a mountain top in a sub-alpine zone. The mountain itself would be ruined even after the hunks of metal are sold for scrap in 20 years. You cannot put a mountain back together again. Friends of Maine's Mountains found an heir to the Carthage "town land" involved in that lease/purchase and that heir has deeded the land over to FMM. The Town of Carthage, of course, is contesting this in court. Patriot Renewables decided to proceed with the ridgeline only...for now.

Those of us who have worked on this for over a year are certainly discouraged at times. There is no sense in pretending that we don't know what we are up against--most significant, the expedited wind law pushed through by the former Governor Baldacci administration. We see some hope in that the new governor is not at all interested in such expensive and inefficent power. He also has no desire to protect the environment, however, and is in the process of removing many of the regulatory hoops that businesses must jump through in Maine. His influence is unpredictable.

Friends of Saddleback and others envision something different for that beautiful ridgeline and mountain. One idea is to extend the very popular Bald Mountain hiking trail to continue up onto neighboring Saddleback. If it must be developed at all, why not something(s) in keeping with the surroundings and which continues to draw upon an already very popular recreational area?

We wonder at the cumulative effect of so many projects in one region. Will it take critical mass before people wake up and say, "What have we done?" The bottom line is that a handful of people decided which lakes and scenic areas in Maine are significant and which are not. Conveniently, most are not. Even the ones adjacent to state parks or with a long history. Even that special place of yours.

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Tags: Carthage, Maine, Ridge, Saddleback, Weld, Wind

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Comment by Brad Blake on March 7, 2011 at 10:48pm
Lisa wrote such a great piece, one that can apply throughout our beautiful state.  The photo of Saddleback from Webb Lake is eerily reminiscent of the ridges surrounding the Lincoln Lakes, which, alas, are now blasted away and scalped bare with 40 wind turbines under construction.  We must stop this insanity!  Halt Patriot Renewables heinous plans.  Let the DEP know we oppose this project by being there in large numbers on Thursday, March 10 at 6 PM in Dixfield at the HS Gym.
Comment by Dan McKay on February 7, 2011 at 9:42pm
Lisa is right. There are many people in the area unsure about  these windmills . Many have expressed a sense that they will not benefit the inhabitants and visitors.  The DEP public meeting is a forum for them to display that they understand  their own  rules, rules that purposely avoid the many negative aspects of these projects. Whether you know anything about the DEP rules isn't important. You have good reason to speak at this meeting for whatever reason causes you see no good with these 400 foot, red-lighted, noise churning, shadow flickering, useless machines.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT (excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010  http://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?"  http://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” http://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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