EUSTIS — A young Minnesota woman, participating Tuesday in an Earth First! protest of the TransCanada Kibby Mountain wind power project, was arrested after locking herself to a tractor-trailer carrying a 5-ton turbine blade to the site.
According to Maine Earth First! spokeswoman Emily Posner, two members of the group stopped the truck at about 1 p.m. on Route 27 about a mile south of the Kibby project, where the woman took a U-lock, commonly used to lock a bicycle, slipped it around her neck and locked herself to the truck.
Logan Perkins of Eddington, Maine, who supervised the demonstration for Earth First!, said Willow Cordes-Eklund, 26, of Minneapolis locked herself to a cable beneath the truck's trailer. She was there for about a half-hour before Maine State Police cut the cable and charged her with failure to disperse.
She remained at the Franklin County Detention Center Tuesday night; her bail was set at $500.
Cordes-Eklund was one of four Earth First! environmental activists arrested Tuesday. Erik Gillard, 26, of Montpelier, Vt., and Ana Rodriquez, 29, of Lake Worth, Fla., also were charged with failure to disperse. As Cordes-Eklund was locking herself to the truck, Gillard and Rodriquez talked to the driver, told him what Cordes-Eklund was doing and asked him not to move the vehicle.
Courtney Butcher, 25, of Pine River, Minn., was also charged with failure to disperse after police asked her to move across Route 27 from the Kibby access road.
As of Tuesday night, only Rodriquez had posted bail, according to a jail official.
Maine State Police, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Border Patrol were at the Kibby site before dawn this morning, when dozens of protesters blocked the road to the construction site.
The protest was organized the day before the Land Use Regulation Commission was to meet in Bangor to deliberate TransCanada’s $100 million proposal to site 15 more wind turbines in the mountains in northern Franklin County. The commission conducted a two-day hearing on the proposal in May. The hearing included a site visit to Kibby Mountain to see the turbines in operation and to consider the impact of 4.7 miles of new road construction at the potential new site on Sisk Mountain.
According to Perkins, protesters plan to attend the LURC meeting Wednesday to continue their active protest of the Kibby and Sisk mountain projects.
Police said the morning protest was peaceful, but a number of Earth First! members were issued trespass notices after TransCanada representatives asked them to leave the property and the protesters refused.
State Police Lt. Don Pomelow said protesters arrived at the Kibby site around 5 a.m., many walking up the private access road to the site. He called the protesters “fairly peaceful” in the early hours, as did TransCanada spokeswoman LeAnne LeBlanc, who said work continued on-site without interruption.
Pomelow estimated the number of protesters to be about 30, but Earth First! said about 50 people gathered in protest at Gold Brook Road.
According to Franklin County Chief Deputy Ray Meldrum, law enforcement officers from a number of departments spent long hours over the weekend patrolling potential Earth First! demonstration target spots, including TransCanada, Plum Creek and Poland Spring sites.
“There are multiple places that are potential for problems,” Meldrum said.
Cameron Lorrain, plant manager for Poland Spring’s Kingfield operation, said he was not aware of any members of Earth First! attempting to demonstrate at the plant. “We are operating under normal operating procedures here,” he said.
TransCanada is building 22 wind turbines on mountains near where it has already built 22 turbines that are producing power. Maine Earth First! says projects like TransCanada's destroy mountaintops and don't offset fossil-fuel use.
Tuesday afternoon, Posner said the group’s blockade was a demonstration of members’ “beliefs of no compromise of Mother Earth,” raising awareness of their concern that the TransCanada project is not about green energy but is about shareholder profits and tax subsidies.
“The Earth continues to get sacrificed for shareholder profit,” Posner said.
Perkins, who said the protest Tuesday lasted about 6½ hours, said, "It was a really important moment for Earth First! to take a strong stand against industrial wind power. Most environmental groups in this country are sort of blindly following the solution trail that corporate energy has laid out for us."
She explained that Earth First! has a no-compromise stance and believes wind power is a “false solution to climate change.”
"We need to really address our bigger picture, lifestyle and consumption issues, and not just install mega-wind projects so Maine can sell wind energy to Boston,” Perkins said.
Tuesday's protest was held a day after the end of Earth First!'s annual week-long international summer gathering in Coplin Plantation. Posner said plans for the Kibby blockade were developed during the group’s encampment on Basil and Harriet Powers' land on the banks of the Dead River.
Earth First!, founded in 1979, is an international extremist environmental group that has frequently clashed with the law as members carry out their mission to challenge what they see as threats to the environment.
Staff writer Donna Perry contributed to this report.