Appeal coming on DEP approval of Spruce Mt. wind project
An appeal is expected shortly on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s recent approval of a wind power project in Woodstock.
“I fully expect there will be one,” said Dawn Hallowell, a DEP project manager.
Such an appeal on the Patriot Renewable project could take months, she said, and could ultimately end up in court.
“The battle ahead of them is long,” Hallowell said Tuesday.
The 11-tower Spruce Mountain LLC project has been approved under town ordinances, but DEP must also issue a permit.
The initial DEP approval came on Sept. 15, and was followed by a five-day comment period.
“On the last day we got a very large submission of material from the Friends of Spruce Mountain,” Hallowell said.
The organization describes itself on its website as “a group of volunteers concerned with proposals to construct wind turbines on Spruce Mountain.”
After the FSM submitted its material, the comment period then closed for the general public.
But DEP reviewed the submissions, posted the material and has allowed further comment on those topics until 5 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at www.maine.gov/dep/blwq/docstand/sitelaw/Selected developments/Spruce_Mountain/index.htm.
Hallowell said she expects a final permit to be issued by early next week.
At that point, an appeal may be formally filed with the Board of Environmental Protection.
Friends of Spruce Mt.
An appeal is in the works, according to Woodstock resident Leola Ballweber, acting president of the Friends of Spruce Mountain.
Ballweber lives on Cushman Road, just south of the project.
The appeal, which she said would be filed by Attorney Rufus Brown of Portland on behalf of the FSM and other interested parties, will be based primarily on the sound levels generated by the turbines.
“It’s too close to the houses over there,” she said. “You’ve got Eagle‘s Nest [a development], Concord Pond, Shagg Pond within a two-mile radius. It’s going to affect them sound-wise, and shadowing [from the turning blades]. Real estate is being affected because of the shadowing. People aren’t going to be able to sell their camps. It’s an overall community punch.”
Ballweber said that other wind projects in Vinalhaven and Mars Hill prompted complaints from residents after they were built.
She said more study of the effects of wind power needs to be done before the Woodstock project proceeds.
“It’s not that I’m against the project, but that it’s not set up correctly. The state has not set up the proper guidelines,” she said.
Her home, she said, is 1.2 miles from the first tower, and she expects to hear the sound from all of them.
Also weighing in on the sound concerns associated with the Woodstock and other wind projects is Dr. Monique Aniel of Mexico, the co-chairwoman of The Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power.
She said Tuesday that studies have shown that sound levels below the limits required by DEP can cause sleep disturbance, and that DEP needs to give consideration to the impact of low frequency sound from the turbines.
The DEP approval report notes that the agency’s noise consultant reviewed sound information provided by Patriot’s consultant.
The DEP consultant then requested that some of the towers be operated in a “reduced sound power mode” at night to provide a larger safety factor than that proposed by the applicant.
Patriot agreed to the request, and said it will work with DEP in designing a sound monitoring program.
DEP also said in the approval document that a computer modeling study had shown the project “will not unreasonably cause shadow flicker to occur over adjacent properties.”
Payments to Woodstock
As part of the application approval, Patriot will also set up a Community Benefits Fund.
The company will pay $20,000 a year to Woodstock for 20 years, and provide a 1,000-acre conservation easement on its property that will allow public recreational use.
In the application, Patriot said the annual $20,000 payment “could be used by the community without restrictions.”
Patriot also said the size of the fund may increase, subject to availability of project resources.
In addition, Patriot will provide a one-time payment to the town of $80,000, “to be used solely for local land conservation.’
Jane Chandler, vice chairman of the WCC, said Monday that the commission does not plan to make any specific recommendations at this time for using the funds.
“The WCC is in favor of the wind tower project on Spruce Mountain and has supported the location of the towers,” she said.
At the annual Town Meeting last March, Woodstock voters defeated a proposed six-month moratorium on wind projects, 101-34.
The Spruce Mountain project has been estimated to generate up to $400,000 a year in taxes.
For more on the project, go to the DEP website address provided above or to www.friendsofsprucemountain.com.