May 28, 2018
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Aquatic center revises plan for wind turbine

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

EAST MACHIAS, Maine — The East Machias Aquatic Research Center withdrew its appeal of a decision preventing it from building a wind turbine on its property within the shoreland zone and instead will install the turbine on its property outside the zone.

The educational and research facility along the East Machias River had applied for a variance to construct the wind turbine in the town’s shoreland zone. Dwayne Shaw, director of the Downeast Salmon Federation, which is creating the center, said Monday the turbine still will be installed, but not within the shoreland zone.

A public hearing that had been scheduled Monday morning before the town’s appeals board was canceled after the request for the variance was withdrawn.

Shaw said East Machias, like many towns across Maine, is revamping its shoreland zoning ordinances to allow wind turbines in that zone if all vegetation already has been removed, for example in a field.

But because the revamping is ongoing, Shaw said, approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection could have been delayed until next August.

“The DEP has already indicated that they are supportive of wind turbines in shoreland zones, as long as the vegetation has already been removed, but they want to wait until the local zoning ordinances are rewritten,” Shaw said.

By moving the turbine location to an alternative site outside of the shoreland zone, the turbine could be installed in the next two or three weeks.

Shaw said the 40-foot-tall, 1.2-kilowatt tower would not have wind blades, but rather an eggbeater-style wind collector.

“It is very, very quiet and is recommended for residential areas,” Shaw said.

The turbine is part of the center’s commitment to operating a green facility. It will be located next to solar panels that already provide alternative energy for the center.

Reconstructing and completing the center has been an eight-year process, aiming to revitalize a dilapidated building the town had designated as blight and slum.

Using a $50,000 grant through the Maine Public Utilities Commission demonstration project program, the federation has installed solar panels that are generating power for the building and more. The federation is selling excess power to Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., which once owned the building and created hydropower on-site.

The Downeast Salmon Federation is using funds raised privately in combination with a $215,000 challenge grant from the state’s Riverfront Community Development Bond to complete this phase of the project. The grant awarded to the town was one of 14 from a $5 million state bond issue for a new River Grant Program approved by voters in 2007.

The facility houses a freshwater flow-through research and fisheries enhancement hatchery, a museum and visitors center, an archival storage room, a wet lab-classroom, certified water quality lab, a technical resources center, and office space.

The facility, designed for freshwater and estuarine research, will complement the Downeast Institute at the University of Maine at Machias, which focuses on marine research. The facility also will provide lab space for university and visiting researchers, and space for instruction for elementary and high school students.

Shaw said the wind turbine is being installed by BRK Works of Detroit.

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