LURC set to hand First Wind its first, biggest defeat

Attorney Juliet T. Browne listens during a LURC hearing in Lincoln on Friday, April 6, 2012.
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Attorney Juliet T. Browne listens during a LURC hearing in Lincoln on Friday, April 6, 2012. Buy Photo
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted April 19, 2012, at 3:28 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Anti-windpower activists in Maine will achieve their most significant victory yet if LURC follows a staff recommendation and votes during a special meeting Friday to reject a 27-turbine industrial wind site proposed for Bowers Mountain.

The Land Use Regulation Commission is due to vote at 2 p.m. at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel on Godfrey Boulevard on a draft decision prepared by LURC staff. The 27-page draft proposes rejecting the application by First Wind, the state’s largest wind developer, due to the project’s adverse scenic impact on the area’s many nature guide and sporting camp businesses.

“Notably, the community in and around the Grand Lake Stream area has more Registered Maine Guides than any place in Maine,” the draft decision states. “Accordingly, the Commission was not convinced by the evidence presented by the Applicant that the expectations of, and the continued use by, those that recreate in this area would not be unreasonably adversely [affected] by the BWP [Bowers Wind Project].”

The commission voted 5-0 in Lincoln on April 6 to reject First Wind subsidiary Champlain Wind’s request to withdraw its proposal to build the wind farm in a rural, sparsely populated area east of Springfield on the Penobscot-Washington county line. Commissioner Robert Dunphy abstained.

The commission directed staff to prepare the decision rejecting Champlain’s application in October.

First Wind officials have said they plan to submit a scaled-down proposal to build on Bowers Mountain later this year, but that didn’t stop project opponents from calling the April 6 decision a significant advance.

The opponents, who had objected to what they believed would be the Bowers Mountain project’s harm to scenery on nine lakes and ponds within eight miles of the site — some considered “outstanding” natural resources by the state — were elated with LURC’s action.

State regulations specifically recognize “that sporting camps are recreational and cultural resources, worthy of protection from incompatible development and land uses,” the draft decision states. The regulations also identify “the need to protect the values of the jurisdiction that provide residents and visitors with a unique array of recreational experiences, especially high-value natural resources and remoteness where they exist.”

The number of turbines, the extent of their visibility, their proximity to the lakes, and their sheer incompatibility with the “nature of the views offered” and the scenic significance of the area all weighed against the proposal, the draft decision states.

Follow BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. on Twitter at @NickSam2BDN.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/19/news/bangor/lurc-set-to-hand-first-wind-its-first-biggest-defeat/ printed on August 27, 2014