GRAND FALLS TOWNSHIP, Maine — The Maine Department of Environment Protection has denied a 14-turbine industrial wind site atop Passadumkeag Mountain.
Passadumkeag Wind Park LLC was sent a 45-page decision signed by DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho on Thursday that detailed the department’s decision.
It is the first wind turbine project to be denied a permit by the DEP, said spokeswoman Samantha DePoy-Warren.
“Commissioner Patricia Aho’s denial is consistent with our staff’s recommendation because the applicant has not made adequate provisions for fitting the generating facility of the development harmoniously into the existing natural environment,” DePoy-Warren said in a statement.
DePoy-Warren was quick to point out that the department’s decision was specific to this project, and not necessarily a precedent being set.
“The views from Saponac Pond are one-of-a-kind,” she said. “These turbines would be visible from the majority of the pond. We shouldn’t be reading into this bigger than this project.”
However, the decision echoes a verdict reached by the Land Use Regulation Commission when it rejected a First Wind of Massachusetts proposal to build 27 turbines atop nearby Bowers Mountain in April, Depoy-Warren told the Bangor Daily News last week. In both cases, officials felt the windmills’ effect on mountain and lake views and businesses that profit from them would be too great.
Attempts to contact Passadumkeag Mountain project developer Quantum Utility Generation, an alternative energy company based in Houston, were not immediately successful.
The DEP decision said the developer did meet the majority of the department’s criteria for the project, including that it would not unreasonably harm any significant wildlife habitat, interfere with natural water flow, violate any state water quality laws or unreasonably cause or increase flooding to adjacent areas.
However, the ruling indicated the wind turbines would have a negative effect on the scenic nature of the lake.
“In that the proposed activity would significantly compromise views from a [Scenic Resource of State or National Significance] and would have an unreasonable adverse effect on the scenic character and existing uses related to the scenic character of the resources, the applicant has not made adequate provision for fitting the generating facility portion of the development harmoniously into the existing natural environment,” reads a selection from the 45-page finding. “The development would have an unreasonable adverse effect on the existing uses and scenic character of Saponac Pond.”
The decision by the DEP was welcomed by the Passadumkeag Mountain Friends.
“Our organization’s judgment was that what benefits the project might have brought to Maine would have been more than offset by harms to the area’s ecosystem and economy,” the organization said in a statement. “Maine’s ‘quality of place’ has long been recognized as unique and special, and Passadumkeag Mountain and its surrounding lakes and hills are part of that legacy. Visitors and property owners do not come to the area to see giant machines in operation; they come for the unspoiled views, for peace and quiet, and for the chance to commune with nature. We are deeply thankful that Maine’s DEP recognized that and upheld its mandate to protect what is special about Maine.”
DePoy-Warren said the department’s rejection was likely not the end of the issue.
“I do expect them to appeal the decision,” she said.
Quantum Energy Partners has two courses of action to appeal, said DePoy-Warren.
“The applicant may now appeal the department’s decision within 30 days to either the Board of Environmental Protection or to the Superior Court,” she said.
Passadumkeag Mountain is 1,463 feet tall and located southwest of Saponac Pond directly east of Greenbush in Penobscot County. Bowers Mountain is 1,127 feet tall and east of Lee and southeast of Springfield near Route 6, about 30 miles northeast of Passadumkeag Mountain. It overlooks seven lakes — including Bottle, Keg, Duck, Junior and Scraggly lakes — near the western Washington and eastern Penobscot county lines.
BDN writer Nick Sambides contributed to this report.