Mountains, not windmills

Portland Phoenix Letters: February 27, 2009
By Portland Phoenix Letters  |  February 25, 2009

I just read your article ("Transmission Troubles," by Deirdre Fulton, February 13) in the Portland Phoenix. A great article that points out the fact Maine is not ready yet to dive headlong into the alternative-energy business. Without much more planning, the results will be disastrous for the Maine ratepayer. Other aspects of the current frenzy to build all these wind turbines is the "responsible siting" issue.

There are many areas in western Maine that are dependent on outdoor recreation and eco-tourism for much of their livelihoods. Several wind-power developers are drooling over these western Maine mountaintops — in direct competition with the recreation business. I am sure that people from away don't travel to the western Maine mountains to look at wind turbines. This is an issue that needs addressing along with the ecological damage to the mountaintops caused by road building and associated activities. It takes a 60- to 75-foot wide road to transport all the cranes and machinery to the top. Building these structures on fragile areas on 30 to 40 percent slopes over shallow soils could do irreversible environmental damage to one of our most precious resources.

The governor convened a task force on wind-power development back in 2007. Unfortunately, the recommendations from that task force sound more like a lobbyist report to the wind-power industry than an impartial and unbiased task force report. Expedited environmental reviews (leaving out the Department of Environmental Protection and the Land Use Regulation Commission) were mentioned for two-thirds of Maine, doing away with visual-impact criteria if turbines are located more than three miles away from a public resource of statewide significance (like the Appalachian Trail), and doing away with re-zoning requirements were mentioned.

The three underlying objectives of the task force were to make Maine a leader in wind power development, protect Maine's quality of place and natural resources, maximize the tangible benefits Maine people receive from wind-power development.

It appears to me that the task force recommendations only address the first objective . We need another task force to deal with numbers two and three — and the "transmission troubles."

Greg Perkins

Whether begotten by sensationalism or poor judgment, I find it disappointing that the Phoenix allowed a well-written and informative article ("Arts and Culture Go Begging," by Emily Parkhurst, February 13) to be overshadowed by its title. "Arts and Culture Go Begging" — really? While I'm sure that the title turned heads, is that type of attention we as a community want to garner for our artists, musicians, and performers?

Emily Parkhurst's piece called attention to a serious issue; however the unfortunate reality is that many people, particularly visitors to Portland, will never get past the headline. No matter how thorough the reporting or redemptive the optimistic finish of the article may be, the story starts and ends at the title. What does a disparaging statement like "Arts and Culture Go Begging" say about our regard for the arts and the people who work so hard to provide us with opportunities to enrich our minds and lives? I think it can be argued that issues that coincide with visits from distinguished national and international stars such as Renûe Fleming should be treated with a additional degree of respect and sensitivity, especially if we'd like them to return.

Arts and culture are a boon to Portland in every way, especially in hard times. If you need proof, just walk the streets of downtown during the First Friday Art Walk. Even in the dead of winter the town is packed with smiling, happy folks from near and far and local businesses are full of life. Let's not cheapen the efforts of the creative folks — editors and journalists included — who give us so much (and oftentimes sing the virtues of our home in the process) with boorish headlines more appropriate for tabloid fodder.

Joseph Conway

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