CARRABASSETT VALLEY – It’s a battle pitting environmentalists against environmentalists.

“We’re all environmentalists in there,” said Steve Hinchman, staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, an intervener in the public hearing process for the application to rezone land on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain to allow a 30-turbine wind farm.

The foundation is giving its conditional support to Maine Mountain Power and its wind power project.

“The applicants need to do a better job of minimizing the impacts” on Redington and Black Nubble, Hinchman said.

The foundation’s purpose in attending the three-day public hearing at Sugarloaf was “to bring out the dire consequences the ridge tops face from global warming,” Hinchman said.

On Friday, opponents testified about the risk faced by the northern bog lemming and Bicknell’s thrush from loss of habitat if the project is to go forward. Aram Calhoun, associate professor of wetland ecology for the University of Maine and wetland biologist for Maine Audubon, discussed a less obvious effect construction of the wind farm could have: destruction of seeps.

“For me, opposing wind power is like a scientist opposing the teaching of evolution in schools,” she said.

In this case though, location was the most important factor, she said. Steep seeps contribute a great deal to the water quality and quantity downstream, including wetlands, Calhoun said. She believes the applicant’s documentation of seep location has been inadequate.

At this time, Maine Mountain Power is proposing winter construction for the wind power project, but Calhoun said because of frozen ground and water, “the seeps are not visible in winter.”

“I have a problem with spring and fall construction because of high water flow,” she said, adding that she has a problem with summer construction because of wetlands species activity.

“This is an extremely hydrological complex mountain,” Calhoun said. Conserving such landscapes can help to battle the greenhouse effect, she added.

But Hinchman sees that the biggest threat to the subalpine forest on Redington is global warming, and the Redington wind farm and other such projects are the only way to save it.

“Data compiled during the environmental movement shows we are having shorter winters and longer growing seasons,” he said, adding that one sign is the movement north of sugar maples.

The subalpine area is surrounded by inhospitable spruce and fir forests, which with the longer growing season expand and in response the subalpine forest “shrinks and climbs up the mountain until it has no place to go,” Hinchman said.

“The massive short-term impact (to the mountain ridges) is undeniable,” he said. “But if we don’t slow and ultimately reverse global warming, the Appalachian Trail experience will be one of walking through dying forests.”

If global warming is not stopped, then the forests face fire, insects and disease. “The entire LURC jurisdiction will be affected by global warming,” Hinchman said. “It’s by far the greater evil here.”

He said the winds along Redington and Black Nubble are some of the “best in the state and are a couple miles from the existing grid. You can’t replicate that anywhere else.” But he feels the developers need to contribute to the preservation of alpine forests in Maine. “It’s an environment in need of protection. They could do more and could do better.”

The Redington Wind Farm is a 90 megawatt ////////////////////MW project, but to effectively cut back carbon dioxide emissions, New England needs 8,000 megawatts ////////////////MW of wind power, Hinchman said. “This project is just 1 percent of the goal. We need to build wind farms everywhere they can reasonably be built to have any chance at stopping global warming.

“This is a really hard choice. Some of the founding fathers of Maine’s environmental movement are heart broken over this development. It is the most difficult choice I’ve had to make as a career-long environmentalist.”

The Land Use Regulation Commission’s public hearing on the Redington Wind Farm ended Friday. The hearing record will remain open until Monday, Aug. 14, to allow for written statements to be filed, and another seven days, until Aug. 21, to allow for rebuttals.


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