Wind power helps save Down East way of life

By Tom Gardner and Jay Haynes, Special to the BDN
Posted Oct. 14, 2011, at 3:31 p.m.

In his Oct. 8 OpEd “What is the value of a view,” V. Paul Reynolds said Grand Lake Stream guides are “fending off threats to their way of life” by opposing the Bowers Wind Project, located nearly 20 miles to the north of the Grand Lake Stream Dam.

The guides are not alone in this pursuit. Maine businesses, landowners and communities are, by supporting the Bowers Wind Project, seeking to fend off threats to their way of life due to lack of economic opportunity in rural Maine. The Bowers Wind Project is a $136 million project in an area where these types of economic opportunities are rare.

There is no evidence that the guides’ fears about the impacts of distant views of wind turbines on their business are warranted. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

In a user survey study of Baskahegan Lake which has views from 4 to 9 miles away of 38 turbines from the Stetson Wind Project and which is used extensively by fishing guides, not a single person mentioned wind turbines. Instead, they spoke of the overuse of the lake resource and their fears of lakefront development which would destroy the “wildness and remoteness” of this lake.

The guides are still guiding their clients on this lake three years after the turbines went up, so any fears they may have had have not materialized.

Large landowners in Maine are proud of the tradition of providing recreational access to snowmobilers, fishermen, hikers, campers and the guides who make their living using other people’s land. At the same time, landowners think it is reasonable for those users to recognize that landowners would like to have an additional revenue stream to offset the cost of taxes on their lands and to maintain infrastructure that so many groups use without charge.

Lease payments from wind power projects temper fluctuating timber prices which reduces the pressure on landowners to convert their lands to other uses such as for development.

While large landowners enjoy the relationship with recreational users, in this case the guides are seeking to protect their own economic interests without any regard to the economic interests of other stakeholders. At a minimum, these other stakeholders include the host communities of Carroll Plantation and Kossuth, which will benefit from the substantial tax revenues, energy fund, conservation fund and other tangible benefits that will flow from the Bowers Wind Project.

Finally, the Bowers Wind Project is located in an area zoned by the Legislature and LURC as appropriate for wind power.

The Grand Lake Stream guides have worked hard to conserve lands around themselves, but they did it by purchasing conservation easements from landowners in exchange for having those landowners voluntarily surrender valuable rights. Granting the guides an 18-mile view easement would amount to the taking of 1,017 square miles of landowner development rights, which is exactly the type of regulatory taking that pending legislation is designed to prevent.

We urge LURC to make a balanced decision and approve the Bowers Wind Project. While Maine guides have a rich heritage that should be protected there is no evidence that this project will affect their ability to thrive in this region.

Tom Gardner is a vice-president of Gardner Land Company. Jay Haynes is president of Lakeville Shores, Inc.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/10/14/opinion/wind-power-helps-save-down-east-way-of-life/ printed on August 28, 2014