This photo was taken from a clearcut on one of the ridges where First Wind proposes a huge wind project in Molunkus, Medway, and T1 R5. It will include the largest turbines yet used in Maine, the Vestas V117 3.3MW that is more than 500 ft tall from base to blade apex. This site is about 15 air miles from the boundary of Baxter State Park and less than 5 miles from high value Salmon Stream Pond and Molunkus Lake. Below the photo is my testimony to the EUT Committee.
Testimony in Favor of LD 1147
Bradbury Blake, January 13, 2014
My name is Bradbury Blake, and I live at 3 Hearn Road in Scarborough, Maine. I am a 9th generation Mainer and I have lived in Maine all of my life. I speak in support of passage of LD 1147. PL 661, the so-called “Wind Law” is a heinous statute devised for a special interest that must be repealed. There are a multiplicity of issues which argue against the state’s promotion of utility scale wind power through this law, including, but not limited to economics, the poor productivity of an unreliable power source, noise and health impacts, negative property value impacts and so on.
One of the most important impacts, specifically addressed in the harshest most restrictive terms in the wind law, is visual and scenic impact. The forces behind this law knew there would be controversy over siting of machines that are as tall as Boston skyscrapers on blasted away and scalped uplands of Maine, so scenic impact was severely restricted within the law. True to the prediction, there has been great outcry regarding the scenic impact of Maine’s existing wind sites and those that have been proposed. LD 1147 seeks to bring more balance to the wind law regarding scenic impact, particularly because people are beginning to recognize the magnitude of the cumulative impact of so many wind turbines and because recently proposed projects call for erecting turbines that are more than 500 ft tall. (First Wind proposes use of the Vestas V117 at Molunkus).
There is a crucial principle at stake with LD 1147, that is, does the State of Maine sacrifice its vaunted “Quality of Place” with the proliferation of industrial wind sites or take further measures to reasonably control impact on at least the state’s scenic treasures? In 2006, the highly respected Brookings Institute published an extensive study entitled “Charting Maine’s Future, An Action Plan for Promoting Sustainable Prosperity and Quality Places”. Nowhere in the study does it recommend destroying Maine’s uplands for industrial wind power sites. The focus instead is reflected in concepts such as “the economic wheel may now be turning in Maine’s direction. As the search for quality places widens and grows in importance, Maine possesses a globally known “brand” built on images of livable communities, stunning scenery, and great recreational opportunities.” LD 1147 is about preserving the Maine “brand” from the cumulative impact of the visual blight of encroaching industrial wind sites.
The Brookings Institute report states, “As its world-famous brand declares, Maine has exactly the sort of authenticity and quality of place that can set a place apart. Maine is unforgettable and distinctive, and that matters.” It matters, indeed, that the state is considered arguably the most beautiful region in the eastern USA and has long used “Vacationland” as its nickname. Its $10 billion plus per year tourism industry is vital to the state and many efforts are made to bring more tourism into the mountains and lakes and the vast woods of the interior of Maine. Why do millions of visitors seek to spend so much time and money in Maine? Why do so many visitors return for good, especially in retirement? “According to survey results, the 13 highest-rated Maine attributes all revolved around its abundance of scenic vistas, the high quality of its recreationalopportunities, and its charming small towns”, as reported in “Travel and Tourism in Maine.” by Longwoods International. Why would we want to jeopardize this enormously important economic engine of our state to promote the special interest of industrial wind power that the State of Maine does not need, as we are already a net exporter of electricity?
If you do not see proliferation of industrial wind sites and its impact on the “Quality of Place” and our natural treasures, consider that the State of Maine included in PL 661 an arbitrary goal of 3000 MW of installed capacity of wind power by year 2020. Projecting the impact of the existing large scale wind sites in Maine, a complete build out of that goal will mean more than 350 miles of Maine’s uplands blasted away, leveled, scalped, and tens of millions of cubic yards of ridges cut and filled. It will mean 50,000 acres of clearcuts, with enormous fragmenting of wildlife habitat, and loss of wetlands, and deer wintering yards. It will mean tens of thousands of birds killed, especially raptors like the bald and golden eagles. It will mean a thousand miles of new powerlines crisscrossing the state like a spiderweb to connect remote wind sites to the grid. It means several more extraordinarily large and expensive 345 kv lines to meet the transmission capacity for the few days in the year in which the wind blows well enough for wind turbines to have designed output. It means 1500 or more wind turbines sticking up 500 ft above destroyed uplands and turning the state from “Vacationland” into “Turbineland”.
Does this scenario get worse? Yes, it does, as states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are beginning to seek power purchase agreements to fulfill their arbitrary renewable power mandates. Already, these states are looking at Maine as a huge wind turbine plantation to meet these mandates. Connecticut, which consumes three times as much electricity as Maine, has an RPS of 20% by 2020. Meeting that Connecticut mandate could double the impact on Maine articulated in the previous paragraph. What kind of “Quality of Place” will Maine have if we surround every natural treasure of our state with huge wind turbines?
I have been fortunate, by staying in Maine, to have grown up in the northeastern part of the state, with Mt. Katahdin at my doorstep, the Downeast Grand Lakes as my backyard, and the vastness of the great North Woods as a playground. For many years, I lived in the mountains of western Maine. I have hiked every mile of Maine’s famed section of the Appalachian Trail. I have hiked to the summit of mighty Katahdin on more than two dozen occasions, rafted the Kennebec and the Penobscot, canoed the Allagash. More importantly, I have savored the special vignettes of the less grand sights of Maine and found those experiences as rewarding to my soul. I know the areas that LD 1147 wishes to protect. They are grand vistas and unique natural resources, indeed.
If we allow the proliferation of industrial wind power without protecting our treasures, we will have sacrificed the soul of Maine. Already, Spruce Mt. wind, Record Hill wind, and Kibby wind projects encroach on the vistas of the Appalachian Trail. Will hikers eventually see wind turbines in every vista along the famed trail? Already, Mars Hill wind, Stetson I & II wind, and Rollins wind are visible from above treeline on Mt. Katahdin. These three sites have the smallest turbines (GE 1.5 MW @ 389 ft tall) and are a bit distant. Closer to Katahdin and using larger 478 ft tall turbines is Oakfield. The proposed Molunkus project, with turbines of more than 500 ft. in height will be just 15 miles from the boundary of Baxter State Park. The view from vista points in Acadia National Park to the north now encompass 479 ft tall wind turbines at Bull Hill wind, which is being expanded. Is this what we want visitors to Maine to see?
LD 1147 is crucial to protecting our places that we consider special. Record Hill wind project in Roxbury is an example. It impacts the scenery of the Appalachian Trail, but also impacts a Mahoosuc Land Trust parcel, the summit of Rumford Whitecap, the purchase of which was a combination of private donations and taxpayer money from the Fund for Land for Maine’s Future. The turbines of Record Hill directly impact the Tumbledown Mt. and Jackson Mt. Public Reserved Land parcels, also preserved with FLMF bond money. Another example: Spruce Mt. wind is visible from the Appalachian Trail, Mahoosuc Public Reserved Land, Grafton Notch State Park, Mt. Blue State Park, Rumford Whitecap, and worst, the wind turbines were built less than 3 miles from public lands of Little Concord Pond/Bald Mt. and Speckled Mt.
The taxpayers of the State of Maine have committed more than $200 million in principal and interest in bonding for the Fund for Land for Maine’s Future. The idea was to buy for public ownership or buy development rights or easements to preserve and conserve our grandest natural treasures and a plethora of meaningful local resources for the future. Substantial purchases include the entire ridgeline of the Mahoosuc Range, Tumbledown Mt. and Big & Little Jackson, Mt. Blue State Park, the Bold Coast in Cutler, vast amounts of shoreline and acreage in the Downeast Grand Lakes, Mattawamkeag Lake, Salmon Stream Lake, Donnel Pond/Tunk Lake Public Reserved Land, Schoodic Mt., Nicatous & West Lakes, Mt. Abraham summit, Chain of Ponds Public Reserved Lands.
All of these magnificent places are threatened by the scenic impact of industrial wind power development. Does it make sense to preserve places but allow them to be surrounded by industrial wind turbines?
I have enjoyed outdoor recreation at all these places listed above. Maine is truly an extraordinarily beautiful place. Many people “from away” would be envious. If the members of the EUT Committee have not been able to appreciate these very special natural resources, I am saddened. Your lives and your souls would be enriched far more by preserving Maine’s “Quality of Place” than by allowing the wind industry to destroy, with no scruples, what makes Maine so special. It is worth protecting and preserving. It is worth standing up to a powerful special interest that has had its unfettered way in Maine for the last five years and saying we are taking back control of our state’s natural and scenic resources, as they belong to the citizens of Maine, not to the wind industry. Set in place a more fair set of scenic impact standards by passing LD 1147.