The Downeast Lakes Region, which stretches from Route 6 to the north, south to West Grand Lake and the historic village of Grand Lake Stream, has been recognized and vigorously protected by the State of Maine for over a century.
Experts from both the private and public sector have conducted very extensive studies of the qualities of the lakes in Maine's Unorganized Territories. Their final report is entitled Maine Wildlands Lakes Assessment. Among other things, this report identifies "lakes with exceptional resource values which merit policy consideration to maintain their existing values". Lakes were evaluated against resource criteria including fishery, wildlife, scenic quality, shoreline character as well as cultural and historical features.
The report confirms that the Downeast Lakes Region is probably the single largest linked grouping of Class 1A and Class 1B rated lakes in the State. It is unique in its history, its quality of place, and its value as a world renown fishery. Of the sixteen local lakes included in the study, LURC concluded that five of them deserve the highest rating of 1A and four were rated 1B. Both ratings denote a lake of statewide significance and all of them were recognized for their scenic character. The LURC study concludes with the following statement:
“The next step is for the Commission to consider the actions that should be taken to shift development pressures among lakes to protect those with exceptional resource values...”
The following map shows which parts of the State the Governor's Task Force on Wind Energy decided would be zoned for wind energy development and expedited permitting. Although all of eastern part of the state is expedited, the Task Force excluded the Downeast Lakes Region from the Expedited Wind Development Area.
Obviously the Task Force recognized the area's unspoiled scenic quality and its economic value to the State when they made the conscious decision to exclude it.
LURC's Land Use Districts and Standards, title 35, definitions, page 2 defines "scenic resource of state or national significance" as "an area or place owned by the public or to which the public has a legal right of access that is... one of the 280 great ponds in the State's unorganized or deorganized areas designated as outstanding or significant from a scenic perspective in the "Maine Wildlands Lakes Assessment".
This means that all of the following lakes in our watershed constitute a scenic resource of state or national significance:
||Upper Oxbrook Lake
||Upper Sysladobsis Lake
|Lower Oxbrook Lake
||West Grand Lake
|Lower Sysladobsis Lake
||West Musquash Lake
Even though none of these lakes fall into the Expedited Wind Development Zone, they will be permanently wounded by the Bowers Mountain Project. Bowers Mountain and Dill Ridge lie immediately north of this protected area, close enough that the project's impact will be felt far into this precious area which the Governor's Task Force specifically excluded from expedited wind development. The following map shows just how much the project will infringe upon the outstanding lakes in the unexpedited zone:
The following topographical map shows greater detail. Because Bowers Mountain stands 1,127 feet high, a 460' turbine will be visible from the entire area with the exception of small 'shadow' areas immediately behind hills. The turbine icons are not accurately placed.
Click on the map to download a more detailed PDF version.
What is beautiful? What is ugly?
Some people will argue that seeing the turbines should not be an issue at all. In a meeting held at Carroll Plt on May 22, 2010, First Wind's Neil Kiely when asked about the visual impact, replied "Personally, I think they're beautiful!" Some people say they look like modern sculpture. In a promotional video on First Wind's website, Mike Cianchette, Former Operations Manager for the Stetson Project gushes:
"The only way I can describe them is Art Deco. They have such an Art Deco look to them. They're stylish. They are beautiful. I love them!"
There are places for manmade art... in art museums! These behemoths should not scar (or even adorn, depending on your point of view) such a valuable scenic landscape as we have in the Downeast Lakes Region. Those of us who live here and recreate here do not come in order to view a massive 'sculpture garden' on the horizon. We make great sacrifices to live and visit here so that we may enjoy an unspoiled natural relationship with the environment. We don't want man-made art (if that's what it is) imposing on the very different order of the natural world.
This project will offend the sensibilities of the average person. Imagine someone from away who has spent hundreds of dollars to come here for a vacation. They come to escape the city. They expect to experience nature as it was 100 years ago. They paddle their canoe away from the dock only to be confronted by a horizon full of illuminated rotating steel giants. This person will be shocked and offended. The sight of these turbines will dash his expectations because they are out of character with the surroundings and significantly diminish the scenic qualities of the area.
It will be a tragedy if First Wind is allowed to irreparably change this area. We are stewards of this great natural beauty for our very short lifetimes and ought to insure that we pass stewardship on to the next generation with the area's key qualities fully intact.