Highland Wind withdraws wind-energy project application

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PORTLAND — The developers of a controversial wind-energy project planned for a portion of Maine’s western mountains have withdrawn their application to the Land Use Regulation Commission.

In a press release issued Monday, former Maine Gov. Angus King, a partner in the Highland Wind project, said the developers would resubmit the application at a later time.

In a letter to LURC, which serves as the planning and zoning board for Maine’s more than 10 million acres of unorganized territory, Highland Wind said it was withdrawing its application for a 117-megawatt wind energy facility in Highland Plantation.

The application was submitted to LURC on Dec. 29, 2010.

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Comments from government agencies reviewing the application, including the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, prompted the withdrawal, King said.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on certain endangered species, including the northern bog lemming and the Roaring Brook mayfly.

Some local people greeted the announcement with pleasure, mixed with a measure of disappointment. “Upon reading the first sentence (of the announcement), I was euphoric,” said Karen Pease of Lexington Township, a vocal opponent of the project.

A member of the nonprofit Friends of the Highland Mountains, which has worked for the past 18 months to fight the wind farm proposal, Pease said she was less enthusiastic to find that the developers planned to submit another proposal in the future.

“I don’t believe in this project there is (a compromise),” Pease said Monday evening. “We believe that the site is inappropriate for wind farms.” She added that she hoped King and his partner, former Maine Public Broadcasting Corp. President Rob Gardiner, would come to the same conclusion.

Protecting species like the Roaring Brook mayfly is an important part of environmental stewardship, Pease said.

“A lot of people kind of snicker about bugs and lemmings, you know, ‘Who cares,'”  Pease said.

But, she said, the Roaring Brook mayfly exists only in Maine — and only in two relatively small regions, in the western mountains and on Mount Katahdin. 

King said the project would resubmit its application to address the state’s concerns.

“We are confident in our ability to address the comments and questions raised by the reviewing agencies,” King said in a prepared statement. “However, we need more time to assess concerns raised by a few state agencies, particularly comments from the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.” 

King said Highland Wind did not want to be in a position, or to put LURC in the position, of having to resolve those issues during or after a public hearing, making withdrawal the only “prudent choice.”

“Our goal is to develop a project that produces non-polluting energy for Maine and New England, is environmentally balanced and treats local people fairly,” King said. “We have invested three years in listening to feedback to ensure that this project meets or exceeds every legal requirement, so taking another few months to carefully evaluate these concerns is well-worth the time.”

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