Saturday, July 19, 2008

Turning wilderness over to development in Maine

Bob Weingarten and Nancy O’Toole of Friends of the Boundary Mountains write in the July 10 Daily Bulldog:

The Maine Legislature created the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) in 1971 to serve the people of Maine and act as the authority over 10.4 million acres of unorganized lands, and one of the largest contiguous undeveloped areas in the Northeast. Among LURC’s responsibilities are the promotion of orderly development, and the protection of natural and ecological values.

In 1974, to ensure the protection of fragile and irreplaceable soil and habitat, Maine’s mountainous areas above 2,700 feet were given zoning protection from ecological-damaging development by LURC. That protection stood the test of time until January 2008 when LURC reversed the protection of our mountains.

Now, before us we have the biggest industrial project being approved, by LURC, which will change the western Maine mountains forever. A project so huge it’s difficult to sum up the total environmental impact, but let us provide a brief overview.

LURC is about to give final approval to TransCanada’s Kibby Wind Power Project based on a final design plan that doesn’t have final surveys, core testing completed, or hydrology mapping finished. (Which means add at least 20 percent to the following figures). There will be 47 intermittent and 38 perennial streams impacted by bridgeways and culverts that will divert streams up to 225 feet. For road building and towers, a total of 423.6 acres will permanently be impacted. Another 310 acres will be cleared and changed from forest and wetland to right-of-ways for transmission lines. The estimate for total road length is 30.5 miles, with widths ranging from 25 to 35 feet, and for 21.75 miles a 150-foot wide “right of way” for the kV line. A 60-foot “right-of-way” for the 34.5 kV buried collector system that runs from turbine to turbine, and then moves to overhead poles moving down the slopes and ridges to the substation. There will be new buildings, temporary batch plant that will be producing 700 yds3 of concrete per turbine pad, rock crushers, and at least 20 acres will be filled by the unused rock and dirt from blasting and road construction.

The project will impact many species of Maine. The northern bog lemming is among Maine’s rarest mammals and listed as threatened. The Atlantic Salmon and the Canadian Lynx is listed as endangered and its habitat will be impacted by this development. Five state-listed plants species have been identified in the project through the wetlands that will be impacted by the transmission lines. The accumulation downstream due to unforeseeable erosion from all these disturbances will greatly impact the fish and natural vegetation forever. Over time the culverts will fill with sediment, silt fences washed out and the environmental damage will accelerate in magnitude and increase in intensity. This doesn’t even include the hundreds of migratory birds, bats and raptors that will perish each year as a result of the 400-foot high turbines. ...

The Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power Development is promoting 2,000 MW by 2015 and 3,000 MW by 2020, by establishing an Expedited Review and Permitting Area in Maine, which includes at least one-third of LURC’s jurisdiction. In the unorganized areas a rezoning would not be required and the DEP will assume jurisdiction for permitting on any proposal that goes through an organized area; the expedited process should take only 185 days.

An Executive Order required LURC to draft a Commercial Industrial Development Subdistrict (D-CI) to streamline permitting and do away with rezoning hearings. In the draft there are two full pages of townships and plantations on the expedited wind energy development area. ...

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights