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Wind farm runs into a little turbulence in Rumney


April 29, 2010
RUMNEY — There was a large turnout for an informational meeting at the Russell Elementary School last Thursday night, as Rumney residents gathered to learn more about the proposed Wind Farm on Tenney Mountain and Fletcher Ridge in Groton.

Many in attendance at the three-hour meeting said they supported renewable energy, including wind power, in general but had questions and concerns about the Groton project. They had many questions about the likely positive and negative impacts on the surrounding community.

Several residents said that they had serious concerns about the visual impact of the proposed 24-wind turbine development as well as questions about the potential noise, health and safety implications.

Rumney Select Board Chair Mark Andrew ably facilitated a largely constructive dialogue, making an effort to remind citizens that the public hearing was called as a "fact finding" session so that the board and Rumney residents could educate themselves about the details of the proposed project.

"We will be looking for input from citizens at a later date," said Andrew. "The only way to form an opinion on this project is to get as much information as we can. We are here to get our questions answered."

Andrews also said that he would investigate the possibility of arranging for a bus tour to Iberdrola's recently completed Lempster, New Hampshire Wind Farm project for interested Rumney residents. Similarly, Groton residents recently travelled to Lempster last year to get a sense of what the turbines are like and came away relatively reassured about the visual impact and low noise levels in the immediate vicinity of the turbines.

Andrews said that the Town has scheduled a follow-up meeting on Monday evening, May 10, at 7 p.m. in the Russell Elementary School. The board hopes to have representatives from the New Hampshire Electric Co-op on hand to give their perspective on the development, as well as other knowledgeable parties involved in the planning process

But last Thursday's meeting was focused on the Wind Farm itself, with New England Development Director Ed Cherian from Iberdrola Renewables providing a power point presentation about the proposed development, complete with visual simulations of what the farm will look like if it is built, and a great deal of information about impacts of the development in Rumney and surrounding communities.

He expects the project would have a positive economic impact in Rumney and Plymouth, providing construction employment and increased business for local and New Hampshire companies. He was straightforward in saying that the visual impact will be clear in many parts of Rumney and Plymouth. The turbines are mounted on 256-foot high towers above the tree line on the ridges, with 139-foot blades operating at about 15 rotations per minute.

Cherian said that years of work have already gone into preparing the wind farm proposal that has just recently been submitted to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) of the Public Utilities Commission. Cherian emphasized that the application is only the first step in a lengthy, multifaceted permitting process for the proposed development which includes a review by the Department of Environmental Services (DES) for an Alteration of Terrain permit, including stormwater and wetlands review.

Comprehensive topographical, engineering, economic, noise, health, wildlife, wetlands, environmental and safety studies have been completed and are available from the New Hampshire SEC website as well as the Town of Rumney website. They are required and are included in the entire SEC application, which is available for residents to review at the Town Hall as well. Cherian urged people with detailed questions to review the application and contact him with any specific concerns if they did not find the answer they were looking for in the documents.

Citizen input into the proceedings over the next nine months of site evaluation review are actively being solicited at the State level and by the Rumney select board. There will be public hearings in Concord and at least one SEC Public hearing to be held in the local area during the evaluation process.

The wide-ranging discussion covered many topics, from the possible route of transmission lines from the wind farm (not yet determined) to the impact on job creation and tourism in the local region.

While most in the audience seemed to be considerably reassured about many of the potential impacts of the proposed development, other seemed to be concerned that the tax benefits of the project are redounding entirely to the Town of Groton, where the wind farm is to be located, while many of the impacts will be felt in Rumney .

Rumney Select board Chair Mark Andrews said that that is an inevitable function of the property tax system, no different than for any other type of business. He said that Rumney residents would receive the tax benefit from the increased value of the transmission lines running through the town. He urged both proponents of wind power and those who had concerns to "let their voices be heard" by writing to the New Hampshire SEC or sending their comments to the Rumney Select Board.

The meeting concluded with several residents speaking favorably about the environmental and social value of "green power" in general.

"Let's not get away from the essence of t he whole deal," said one Groton Hollow Road resident . "Where I came from in Maryland, they use dirty coal from West Virginia where they chop the tops off mountains to get to the coal. I know how bad coal is for the environ ment. With that in mind, this is a really good deal."

Buffalo Road resident Gary McCool echoed the sentiment. "We are almost entirely dependent on some other country, hostile or not, for foreign oil in this country," said McCool. "We are contemplating spending millions of dollars for a new generation of nuclear power plants. At least with wind we don't have to worry about storing nuclear waste. We don't have to worry that it will become a terrorist target. We should support renewables, properly developed, and properly planned. Perhaps we shouldn't be quite to narrow in our focus. Let's not forget that we all benefit from this project as American citizens."

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