Idiot wind

Airship of fools
By AL DIAMON  |  December 2, 2009

Last spring, after the state Legislature rejected a bill that could have resulted in a wind farm being constructed on two undeveloped mountains in Redington Township, a lot of people in western Maine, figuring the controversial project was finally dead, expressed their joy by doing the chicken dance in the streets.

You could be excused for concluding that a lot of people in western Maine are damn fools.

Although, to be fair, they came by their foolishness (at least, the part not involving the chicken dance) in understandable fashion.

In recent years, the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) has twice rejected plans by developer Harley Lee to put turbines on Black Nubble and Redington peaks, in sight of the Appalachian Trail and Sugarloaf ski resort.

Soon after, Governor John Baldacci's special task force on expediting wind-power proposals decided those two mountains were inappropriate locations for such towers.

More recently, the aforementioned bill that would have circumvented those negative rulings by allowing the town of Carrabassett Valley to annex Redington Township and approve Lee's project on its own went down to resounding defeat in the state Senate.

Ding-dong, the deal is dead, sang the fools on the hills, while chicken-dancing themselves into a frenzy.

This incongruous musical mixture may have drowned out the ominous sounds of Lee and his allies preparing yet another assault on the wilderness.

Shortly after legislators blew the annexation plan away, Carrabassett Selectman Lloyd Cuttler published an op-ed in the local weekly paper claiming that proposal was never about circumventing state rulings, but was designed to enhance "recreational and economic opportunities." Cuttler hinted the town would continue to pursue a takeover of Redington.

Town Manager David Cota said that while no formal discussions have been held on the subject, "The selectmen remain very interested in annexing [Redington] from a recreational perspective." Cota said the board might take a formal vote before the end of the year, and another annexation bill could be introduced in the Legislature in 2011. This time, though, he insisted, the effort would have nothing to do with wind power. "There's no hidden agenda here with Harley Lee to get this back on the table," he said.

Depends how you define "hidden agenda."

In September, Lee told Mainebiz magazine he hadn't abandoned plans to place turbines on Redington and Black Nubble and still considered the project viable. At around the same time, Lee filed a request with LURC to be allowed to keep wind-testing equipment on the two mountains indefinitely. In October, shortly after I (and a couple of other fools) started asking questions about his intentions, Lee abruptly withdrew his request. The equipment is now supposed to be removed by the end of November.

Meanwhile, Cota was struggling to explain why, if no wind project is involved, Carrabassett would want to conquer Redington. The unorganized township is mostly owned by timber and paper companies, which under the state's tree-growth law pay little in property taxes. There are no legal residents and few structures, outside a secret US military survival-training compound, which I'm forbidden to even mention, so just pretend I never brought it up.

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