February 12

Bingham hearing again pits First Wind project backers against opponents

The Department of Environmental Protection is expected to issue a final ruling on the proposal in the spring.

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Those in favor of the project added that the economic benefit would outweigh any negative aspects. Both Bingham and Moscow have agreements with First Wind, the parent company of Blue Sky, to receive annual payments for 20 years. Bingham would receive $8,000 a year for each tower built within the town’s boundaries, and Moscow would get $20,000 a year. Kingsbury Plantation would get the most money — $176,000 a year for 20 years from the company.

The project would have 11 turbines of up to 492 feet high in Bingham, 22 in Kingsbury Plantation and 29 in Mayfield Township.

In November, the review of the project was put on hold because of concerns that wind turbines could hurt bats, which also are facing an outside threat from white-nose syndrome, a rapidly spreading disease that has put two local bat species under consideration for being classified as endangered species. To protect the bats, Blue Sky West LLC has agreed to adopt a recommendation from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to regulate turbine speeds when the bats are active.

Comments Wednesday night also addressed the possible adverse affects on the area’s bald eagle population, brook trout, smelts and other fish with the disruption of fresh-water wetlands to make way for the turbines. Others spoke of the shadow flicker from sunlight on the turbine blades and the effect on honeybees, blueberries and water quality.

Others disagreed, saying the wind project would be a major benefit to the area.

Gloria Jean Shaw, who said she always has lived in Bingham or Moscow, told the DEP and others present that the Bingham Wind project is a good thing.

“First Wind will do it the right way, and the town of Bingham will get a tax break,” Shaw said. “Anybody would be stupid not to accept this as progress.”

Bingham Selectman Steve Steward said votes overwhelmingly approved the concept of wind power at Town Meeting three years ago. He said the area is right for development and it should be up to area residents to “determine which way we go”.

Robert Linkletter, of Athens, whose family is in the logging business and operates a pellet mill, said the project is an ideal partnership between private land owners and forest management.

“The reality of a difficult economy can not be ignored,” Linkletter said. “Property taxes going down has property values going up.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367 dharlow@centralmaine.com Twitter: @Doug_Harlow
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