CARROLL PLANTATION, Maine – Gary Campbell feels good about his chances.
The president of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, Campbell said he hopes that First Wind’s second application to build an industrial wind site atop Bowers Mountain will get rejected like the first.
“I am a bit disappointed that First Wind has come back with a new proposal,” Campbell said Friday, “but I am confident that we will prevail because the new proposal, although it contains fewer turbines, [features turbines that] are 30 feet taller than in the old proposal, and they have moved them to slightly higher ground.”
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection typically holds public meetings to weigh projects, but Commissioner Patricia Aho opted to hold a formal public hearing in fairness to all parties and to help the agency with its process, agency spokeswoman Samantha Depoy-Warren said Thursday.
The Bowers proposal is the first to be subject to a DEP public hearing, she said. No date has been set.
A First Wind subsidiary, Champlain Wind LLC, submitted a second application to build atop Bowers Mountain to the DEP in October. The second proposal features 16 turbines instead of 27, company officials have said. The first proposal was denied by the then Land Use Regulation Commission in April in the first significant victory against a wind developer by a Maine anti-wind group since they started fighting projects proposed by First Wind about five years ago.
Campbell and John Miller, who is the organizer and spokesman for the two-week-old Carroll Citizens for Bowers Mountain group, said they were pleased that the DEP opted to hold a public hearing.
“It is a good thing because finally we are being heard,” said Miller, whose group has 22 members. “I have sent emails and letters to everybody from Gov. LePage to Patricia Aho and it is about time that people with no voice get heard.”
Several members of Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, several area wildlife guides, and owners of several tourism-related businesses spoke against First Wind’s first application with LURC.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne, meanwhile, said his company is hopeful that the DEP will approve the new proposal.
“This project is significantly changed from the initial project that we proposed in that it has about 40 percent fewer turbines but will generate a similar amount of energy,” Lamontagne said Friday.
If the radar technology involved gets Federal Aviation Administration approval, the turbines would be equipped with warning lights that would turn on only with aircraft approaching, Lamontagne said.
The radar equipment is common in Canada and Europe, he said. The project also has support from 133 petition signers, including Carroll Plantation Town Clerk Anita Duerr, who urged DEP in a separate letter to support the second project.
More than 1,000 people have signed a petition opposing the project, Campbell said. Residents of Grand Lake Stream also voted to oppose the project, he said.
“We asked repeatedly for a public hearing, we made a case for a hearing, and a lot of our membership wrote letters asking for a hearing,” Campbell said. “One of the main advantages is that everyone is testifying under oath. We get to cross-examine them and they get to cross-examine us. It is a good exchange of information and DEP will be there.”
The project, if approved, would be built within three miles of Pleasant, Shaw, Duck and Junior lakes and eight miles from Scraggly, Keg, Bottle, Sysladobsis and Pug lakes.
In their 27-page decision rejecting the first proposal, LURC commissioners said they relied heavily on testimony from the area’s guides that the turbines “would reduce the likelihood their clients would want to return to the area and thus [the turbines would] adversely impact their businesses.”
The area’s small businesses include sporting camps, lodges and housekeeping cabins, hunting and fishing guides, and retail and service businesses that cater to tourists.