CARRABASSETT VALLEY – The sides were clearly marked.

Supporters wore buttons and stickers reading simply “Yes” with wind turbines as the backdrop. Opposition was identified by stickers that read “Get the site right.”

No matter what side they were on, people interested in the possible future of a 30-turbine wind farm atop Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain filled the seats in the King Pine Room at Sugarloaf, with more than 100 waiting for their chance to speak to the state’s Land Use Regulation Commission.

During the next two days, commissioners will listen to testimony from both sides as the panel gathers more information and opinions before deciding if a 1,000-acre parcel should be rezoned from mountain area protection subdistrict to planned development subdistrict so the wind project can be built.

If approved, 12 wind turbines reaching a height of 410 feet would be installed on Redington and 18 on Black Nubble. Land would be cleared to accommodate access roads, utility lines, a substation and maintenance building. In all, the cleared area would cover 307 acres. And 12.5 miles of roads would be created and 12 miles of existing roads would be upgraded, according to information from Maine Mountain Power, the project developer.

Randy Mann with Edison Mission, a partner in the project, said the developers have spent more than a decade “searching for the most appropriate site in Maine in New England.”

“Maine has been blessed with a tremendous amount of natural resources, which have been tapped,” Mann said, citing hydropower, forestry, farming and outdoor recreation. “Right here in the western mountains, there is a tremendous wind source.”

Because of their north to south ridgeline, strong and constant winds and proximity to existing power lines, Redington and Black Nubble were deemed the “appropriate site.”

But those who think the wind turbines would have a negative affect on the view and could harm the subalpine forest on Redington say it couldn’t be any more of an inappropriate site.

Sally Iverson lives on Eustis Ridge. “We are blessed with panoramic views of the mountains,” she said. As an artist, Iverson said the mountains have served as her inspiration, and she couldn’t imagine looking out to see wind turbines “that are taller than a 40-story building.”

Jo Craemer, also from Eustis, called it “visual pollution that will be in our faces 365 days a year, and they won’t produce (energy) 365 days.”

On a clear day, she said, the radio towers on top of Sugarloaf are visible and there’s no way that 30 wind turbines wouldn’t have a visual impact.

Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, said his family has land and a home in the area, the back porch of which looks directly upon the mountains in question.

“The air we breathe is more important than the subjective aesthetic,” he said. “If we can give up a little bit of our view to make sure that our children and our children’s children breathe cleaner air, then I say let the turbines rise.”

He said it was ironic and sad that the issue was being debated on the “hottest day of the year in the hottest year of the hottest decade.”

Neil Iverson of Eustis said it was more important to preserve the mountains in their “undeveloped, unspoiled” state for the future generations. He said LURC should stick with its original decision, the one it made when it zoned the land as a mountain area protection subdistrict.

Jim Hutzler of Alexandria, Va., owns a camp in Oquossoc and has family ties to the area. “This is a question of right and wrong, good and evil,” he said. “God’s country must not be sacrificed to satisfy man’s lust to consume. (This project) will leave the land wounded and scarred forever.”

“If anyone had been opposed to development 50 years ago and said, ‘Who would want to look at the scars of clear-cuts up and down this mountain,’ (Sugarloaf) would not be here,” said Fred Hardy, a retired dairy farmer from New Sharon. Farming has made him an environmentalist by necessity, he said.

“Global warming is not something I have ever been warm and cozy to, but there’s something to it,” he said. The wind farm “is one way we can produce energy from a renewable source that won’t contribute to global warming.”

While some critics of the project said Mainers would not even use the power produced by the Redington project, Hardy said it doesn’t matter. “No matter where the power gets used, the fact remains that it doesn’t contribute to global warming or the use of coal and oil.”

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” Hardy concluded.

LURC will listen to testimony and cross-examination of developers and intervenors today and Friday. The public will have another chance to speak beginning at 6 p.m. in the King Pine Room of the base lodge at Sugarloaf.


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