CARTHAGE — A 2- to 3-mile
section of the Saddleback Mountain ridge in the northeast section of Rumford could become the area’s newest wind turbine farm.

Andy Novey, project manager for Patriot
Renewables of Quincy, Mass., said
Thursday that the first season of environmental studies of bird
migration patterns and visual surveys has been done. The company will
complete a second set of similar studies in September and October.

The ridge line is on the south
side of Bald Mountain which is accessed by a trail head off Route 156 in
Washington Township.

No endangered species have been
identified and the number of birds and bats that fly over the
ridge are fewer than expected, Novey said.

As part of the permitting process for Maine Department of Environmental
Protection review, a full year of studies must be completed. The
first study began in November 2008. Also at that time, the company erected
a 200-foot meteorological tower on the ridge to measure wind power.

Both flicker-shadow and noise studies
are also part of the data that must be submitted.

Novey said few homes or camps are located
near the proposed site, with the closest believed to be just under a
mile from the nearest turbine.

Patriot Renewables has an option to
purchase or lease the four parcels on which the project is proposed.
Because the town did not adopt a comprehensive plan and subsequent
ordinances when it was put before voters in 2004, the only
regulations for a proposed wind project on private land are from the state.

Novey hopes to get the entire
application to the DEP in December and to get a reply within six months. If that happens, he said, the $30 to $40
million project could be built during the 2010 construction season.

Although the project
would stand alone, the company also wants to lease an adjacent parcel, the highest parcel on the ridge at 2,572 feet, from the town. If
that is approved, another five or six wind turbines would be

First Selectman Steve Brown said residents voted in 2001 to make the latter
parcel a conservation easement. With that designation, uses would be limited to
traditional recreational ones.

An article for action during the annual
town meeting, tentatively set for July 27, will ask residents to
modify 30 acres of the town’s 320 acres of the conservation easement.

Brown has mixed feelings about the
possibility of changing the conservation designation.

“There is the potential opportunity
for the town to make money from royalties,” he said. He also
understands that some people want to keep the land free of any kind
of development.

“The townspeople will have to
decide,” he said.

He estimated royalty figures at $10,000 to $20,000 per turbine. Also, construction of a wind-power project
would more than double the town’s valuation.

The town lots, as they are called, are
not governed by a clear title, something Brown said would have to be
sorted out by lawyers before any lease could be written.

Novey said his company would help the
town with legal fees if voters change the conservation designation.

He plans to attend the town
meeting and continue working with the DEP.

If voters choose to modify
the conservation easement, the next step would be to clarify the
ownership of the town site, Brown said. Before a lease could be made, residents
would also have to approve it.

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The major portion of the proposed 12- or 13-turbine wind project runs along the ridge to the right which is privately owned. The higher peak to the left is owned by the town of Carthage. This view was taken from Goodwin Road in Carthage. Turbines would be about 300 feet tall, plus another almost 100 feet for a blade.

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