LEE, Maine — Five Maine environmental and health groups will support the proposed Bowers Mountain industrial wind site when the state’s top environmental agency reviews the project in a two-day public hearing next week, officials said Thursday.
The announcement marks the first time so many such groups have supported a wind project in Maine, said Glen Brand of Sierra Club Maine.
“These groups represent thousands of Maine citizens who support the Bowers wind project because it will reduce pollution, create good local jobs, protect wildlife and help to move Maine into a cleaner
energy future,” Brand, the Maine Sierra Club’s director, said in a statement.
The groups claim that the site of the proposed 48-megawatt project in Penobscot and Washington counties is on commercial timberland that was clear-cut by previous owners and has no rare, endangered or threatened species on it.
Project opponents say that it will mar views of some of the Maine’s most precious wildlife and forests.
Gary Campbell, president of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, said the project is within eight miles of an unprecedented 14 lakes that are state-designated as “Scenic Resources of State or National Significance.”
Of those 14 lakes, nine will “suffer turbine views” if the project is built, Campbell said.
“This area is unique. It is not just some lakes. This is a network of many lakes that are all interconnected,” Campbell said. “The area is unique because there are not many businesses there at all that are not dependent on the natural resources of the area.”
“We have the state’s greatest concentration of professional guides. We have many traditional Maine sporting camps, and these businesses depend on visitors coming to enjoy the untouched wilderness feel of the area,” Campbell added.
Maine Professional Guides Association, the Maine Sporting Camp Association, the Grand Lake Stream Guides Association and the Maine Wilderness Guides Organization are among the groups supporting PPDLW, Campbell said.
“Guides and sporting camp owners have asked their clients and guests how they would feel if there were turbines visible on the horizon over these lakes, and many of them made it clear that they would not return,” Campbell said.
Officials from Champlain Wind, LLC., a subsidiary of First Wind of Massachusetts, seek to build a 48-megawatt wind site atop Bowers Mountain. It is their second application seeking to build there. The first proposal was denied by the now-defunct Land Use Regulation Commission in April 2012 in the first significant victory against a wind developer by Maine anti-wind groups since they started fighting projects almost seven years ago.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will have two full days of testimony and cross examination followed by night sessions for more public input at Lee Academy on April 30 and May 1.
The public hearing will be DEP’s first for a proposed wind project, spokeswoman Samantha Warren said.