Public meetings for Bingham wind project could begin next month

Posted June 23, 2013, at 9:12 p.m.
Last modified June 24, 2013, at 7:26 a.m.

BINGHAM, Maine — Public meetings regarding a 62-turbine wind project in Somerset and Piscataquis counties could begin as early as next month, according to a Maine Department of Environmental Protection official.

Blue Sky West LLC and Blue Sky West II LLC, subsidiaries of First Wind Energy LLC, had an application approved by the DEP in May for the Bingham Wind Project that will place 11 turbines in Bingham, 29 in Mayfield Township and 22 in Kingsbury Plantation. Towns of Moscow, Abbot and Parkman will have work related to the project, but no turbines. The turbines are capable of generating up to 191 megawatts of power.

The project would be the largest in New England and will cost about $400 million.

Two public meetings are planned near the project site.

“We’re anticipating the meetings in July and September of this year,” said Mark Bergeron, Maine DEP Division of Land Resource Regulation director. “We haven’t determined a location yet.”

There has been mixed reaction to the project thus far.

Bingham Selectman Steve Steward said town meetings have been held and a majority of people in town were in favor of the wind project.

“There’s been some opposition, but you’ll get that with anything,” said Steward.

Mickey Knowles, a selectman for Abbot, said residents voted to allow the Board of Selectmen to make the decision to have more than a dozen utility poles placed in town, with a stipulation that the town’s attorney look over the application. The vote was 29-8 in February.

“Before the selectmen sign a permit allowing them to place poles, we’re going to need clearance from our attorney,” Knowles said.

It makes sense to approve the permit, he said.

“I look at it like, as long as it’s legit, it’s a no-brainer to receive free money,” said Knowles, adding that the town would receive about $20,000 a year for 20 years.

Bingham would receive roughly $8,000 per tower per year, said Steward.

However, David P. Corrigan, a registered Maine Master Guide, said he isn’t happy about the project.

“This project is going to be a disaster for the whole Kennebec Valley area,” he said. “They’re putting up a project that may or may not be up and running in 10 years.”

Wind turbines, he said, have led to a loss of business for him.

“I’m a guide, and people don’t want to see flashing red lights on ridge lines or hear the motors,” said Corrigan. “I have clients who say they’re never coming back to Maine.”

He added that tourism has taken a hit because of wind projects and property values have decreased.

According to the application, the project would take up to 87 weeks to complete once approved.

Bergeron said the statutory deadline for the DEP to approve or deny the project is Nov. 12.

In addition to the DEP, other agencies have been a part of the application process, he said. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are included as well as independent consultants for scenic and noise impacts.

A staff analysis is drafted before the second public meeting, he said.

“Essentially, it’s a status update of the review of the project to that point,” said Bergeron. “It will include comments from the department noise and scenic experts and comments from review agencies. It’s not a final document. It’s not the final decision, it just gives the public an idea of where the department is in the review process at that point in time.”

Bergeron said the department is interested in hearing from the public. Contact information and a copy of First Wind’s Bingham Wind Project application is available on the DEP’s website.

CORRECTION:

A previous version of the story requires correction. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will hold two public meetings, not public hearings.

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