GUEST COLUMN

Fishermen don’t come to Maine for industrial scenery

Posted June 05, 2011, at 8:20 p.m.

It’s not hunting season, but there are plenty of “shots” being fired in the ongoing battle to save one of the state’s most historic and significant watersheds from the irreparable and permanent damage on the scenic character and wilderness setting that is the lifeblood of the traditional businesses in this entire watershed. I’m referring to the Downeast Lakes Watershed.

First Wind LLC of Boston is going through the Land Use Regulation Commission permitting process right now to build an industrial wind turbine project that would consist of 27 43-story-tall turbines overshadowing such pristine lakes as Pleasant, Scraggly, Junior, Lower Dobsi, Pocumcus, West Grand and several others that total more than 17,000 surface acres.

This watershed’s significance goes back more than 100 years to when the state realized the value of what today is still the purest strain of landlocked salmon anywhere in New England, and built a hatchery in Grand Lake Stream in 1877. This watershed hosts the highest per capita concentration of registered Maine Guides in the state. It also has the highest concentration of Class 1A and 1B lakes in the state, which means they are rated to be “of statewide or national significance” in the state’s Wildlands Lake Study.

It also hosts such storied lodges as Weatherby’s, Leen’s, The Pines, Grand Lake Lodge, as well as more than half a dozen others throughout the watershed. These lodges are unique not only because the likes of Calvin Coolidge, Ted Williams, Norman Mailer, Jimmy Doolittle and Curt Gowdy frequented them, but also because they cumulatively are one of the biggest employers in the region.

The scenic impact assessment study submitted by First Wind says, very arrogantly, that the fishermen who come to this watershed can orient themselves away from the turbines when they fish, or go fish in a cove that hides you from that view.

People from literally around the globe have been coming to this watershed for more than 100 years to vacation in an area that combines the serene scenic character of a wilderness setting, with some of the best fishing the state has to offer. They spend their hard-earned vacation time and money on gas, food, lodging, license fees and much more to be able to sit in the front end of a guide’s Grand Laker canoe and take in the very best Mother Nature has to offer.

All that will end if this project gets approved by LURC. Sportsmen are a lot less likely to fly or drive 10 to 12 hours to come fish and recreate in the shadow of an industrial energy site. Chances are they can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by staying much closer to home if they don’t mind recreating in an industrial environment.

If this subject interests you, please submit written testimony to LURC denouncing the Bowers Mountain project, or come to the LURC public hearings at the Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln at 6 p.m. June 27 and 28. Anyone can speak at these public hearings.

Save the Downeast lakes — say no to the Bowers Mountain project and others like it.

Kevin Gurall of Lakeville is president of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed.

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