Wednesday, January 24, 2007

LURC vote on Redington wind farm expected tomorrow

Maine Today

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AUGUSTA -- A seven-member citizen board will rule Wednesday on a wind power project that would be built on ridgelines that environmentalists say are rare habitat and home to threatened species.

The Land Use Regulation Commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. in Farmington to rule on the application by Maine Mountain Power LLC to rezone about 1,000 acres on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain to allow the construction of 30 turbines, each 400 feet high.

The meeting is scheduled to take place in the Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Environmentalists have strongly criticized a recommendation by the commission staff in favor of the $130 million project.

The commission usually follows the staff recommendation. The land use agency acts as the planning board for the unorganized territories, an area that makes up roughly half of Maine.

Jenn Burns, of Maine Audubon, said Thursday that the recommendation, on a project in a remote, relatively undeveloped area, sets a bad precedent.

"The bar it creates is so low that every future project would be able to walk right over it," she said.

Environmentalists say the recommendation essentially ignores the impact the project would have on threatened species, including the northern bog lemming and Bicknell's thrush, that live in the area.

Four conservation groups, Maine Audubon, Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, called the recommendation illegal at a press conference on Thursday, raising the possibility a decision in favor of the wind power project would be appealed.

Catherine Carroll, director of the commission, said the recommendation is based on the input of the applicant, intervenors, all those who took part in the public hearing process and the commission's own comprehensive plan, as well as other review criteria.

Carroll said while she understands that some are disappointed in the recommendation, that doesn't mean their input was ignored.

"The staff has gone through every piece of paper in the record," she said.

Nor does the recommendation mean that every wind power project will be approved.

"I think they have to all be reviewed on their own merits, period," said Carroll.

If it is approved Wednesday, the Redington project would be the biggest wind power project in Maine, but not for long.

Transcanada, a Canadian energy company, has filed an application with the commission to place 44 turbines on Kibby Mountain and the Kibby Range in Franklin County.

Alan Crowell -- 474-9534, Ext. 342

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