Trading our environment for wind power

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In 2008, the Kibby project, 44 turbines, miles of roads and hundreds of acres of cleared forest was approved. The Expedited Rule did its job for the developer, streamlining the necessary review since the location is part of over 14 million acres of land opened to wind development.

Now in 2010, TransCanada wants to expand the Kibby project and is proposing 15 turbines on Sisk Mountain, which overlooks the Chain of Ponds.

To do this TransCanada wants to expand the already expedited area of Maine to include the portion of Sisk Mountain not yet within this “umbrella.” TransCanada is petitioning to add another 630 acres to the expedited area, all of it overlooking Chain of Ponds, Big Island, and Massachusetts Bog.

Mountain tops and ridges above 2,700 feet will host all 15 turbines, 3.6 miles of crane road (34 feet wide), 3.6 miles of collector lines, (60 feet wide), 0.6 miles of access road to ridge and miles of “temporary” skidder trails. That does not include upgrades to a number of existing tracks.

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A total of 90 wetland areas were identified with 11 Palustrine scrub — shrubs in the path of the collector line corridor. TC surveyed the area for vernal pools and listed 14 significant pools, meaning it has a high habitat value and is home to or has an abundance of threatened or endangered species. All will be impacted to some degree.

Clearing and grubbing will remove 140 acres of forest. Of that, 42 acres is described as fir-heartleaved birch sub-alpine community. Having a statewide S3 ranking means it’s a rare community type of forest and the clearing will isolate and alter the habitat adjacent to the community, allowing sunlight and wind, which removes moisture, deeper into the forest and impacting the rest of the community and altering it forever. The Bicknell Thrush, a threatened song bird, will lose 12.4 acres of critical habitat.

Blasting and excavating estimates are 750,000 cubic yards, with 650,000 cubic yards of fill. This is very significant, given that the soils, hydrology and the steep slopes above 2300 feet are very fragile. It is very difficult to build roads in this zone without significant blasting and its effects to the surrounding environment.

Underlying hydrology needs to be identified and protected. This includes water from seeps, springs and streams disrupted by blasting of ledge and rock for roads and turbine placement.

The results from diverting will change the temperature and volume of streams, thus impact salmon in North Branch Dead River, Horseshoe stream and wild brook trout in Clear Brook.

Roads and collector lines will cross 57 perennial and intermittent streams.

Gold Brook is a tributary of the north branch of the Dead River and provides temperature refuge for landlocked salmon and supports wild brook trout. Kibby Stream, a tributary of Spencer Stream, supports wild brook trout. When existing hydrology is disturbed and large amounts of sedimentation is deposited into these streams, significant impacts to our native fish population will occur.

In 2008 Roaring Brook Mayflies were discovered in Gold Brook, whose headwaters are on the southern slope of Sisk. This insect is listed under the Maine Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife as Endangered. First discovered at the base of Mt. Katahdin in the Roaring Brook, it is protected for its entire length in Baxter State Park. It is a significant source of food for the brook trout, bats, dragonflies and other wildlife.

The bog lemming, golden eagle historic nesting area, and Canadian lynx tracks were discovered in the Kibby and Sisk area.

Boreal straw and snowline wintergreen were found, both listed as a S2, imperiled in Maine due to rarity of species. Both grow along the margins of perennial streams.

All these and more species fall under some regulations for protection!

Where is their protection in all this fury to make money? This is an oxymoron if there ever was one — killing endangered species, some due to global warming species, in order to curtail global warming?

The Benedict Arnold Trail is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and 18.7 miles of the trail lies within the projected area of visual effect.

The state scenic byway, Route 27, Chain of Ponds, will have scenic impacts due to the visibility of turbines along the ridge of Sisk Mountain.

I encourage the public to come to the hearing and let their voices be heard.  More information can be found on the LURC Web site.

Nancy O’Toole is a member of the Friends of the Boundary Mountains, a nonprofit that intervened in the Kibby Mountain project as well as the Sisk Mountain project before LURC now. She has a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering and 10 years of experience with high mountain road construction and hazardous waste cleanup in towns in Utah. She lives in Phillips.

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