I sent the letter below to the DEP, on Company letterhead. If you have not yet commented on this project, please take a few minutes and do it before 5 P.M. today. Tell DEP that this project will have an Unreasonable Adverse Impact on wildlife, on tourism, and on those scenic lakes that are especially deserving, under the law, of special protection. Email your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
FLETCHER MOUNTAIN OUTFITTERS
David P. Corrigan
Registered Maine Master Guide
82 Little Houston Brook Road
Concord Township, Maine 04920
July 26, 2012
Patricia Aho, Commissioner,
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
C/O Jim Beyer, MDEP Project Manager
Via email: email@example.com
RE: Passadumkeag Mountain Wind Project
Dear Commissioner Aho,
Please consider this letter and all attachments, references, and links as my submission to the MDEP on the matter of the proposed Passadumkeag Mountain Wind Project, to be entered into the official record for this case. I am writing to request that you deny this permit application, and I am including evidence that I believe will be helpful to you in reaching that decision.
I believe that the information that you received at the July 12 public meeting should have constituted overwhelming evidence that the applicant has failed to meet their burden of proof that this project would not have an unreasonable adverse impact on not only the surrounding area, but also on those lakes and other resources that qualify for special protection under the law, as ‘Resources of State or National Significance.’ However, I am going to provide even more reason for you to deny this project.
I have not had the opportunity to fully review the permit application, but I have read the complete MDEP draft analysis, and also having attended the second public meeting in Greenbush on July 12 [where I was not allowed to speak, due to time constraints], I offer you my perspective and my reasons for asking that you deny this permit application.
It might be helpful to point out that I was an Intervenor before LURC in the recent First Wind/Bowers Mountain Project, and I did considerable research into the scenic impact, wildlife impact, and impact on tourism related business of wind projects for that case. As the Passadumkeag Project and the Bowers Project share a lot of similarities, including general geographic area, scenic impacts to water bodies recognized for their scenic qualities, and similar potential threats to wildlife and wildlife habitat, I am asking that you review the entire Bowers Mountain/LURC DP4889 file and decision, and enter both into evidence as part of this MDEP review process. I believe that by reviewing that case, which benefited from a full public hearing process, and by entering both the evidence and the final decision into the record for the Passadumkeag Project, you will be able to better reach a decision that is within the law, and that serves the People and the Natural Resources of Maine which you are sworn to protect. That file is too large to attach here, but it can be easily accessed/downloaded from this link: http://www.maine.gov/doc/lurc/projects/Windpower/FirstWind/Champlain/Champlain_Development.html
I would ask you to pay special attention to the wildlife impacts, especially to the Threatened Canada Lynx, and the Bats which are currently in a very dangerous population decline due to White Nose Syndrome. As in the Bowers Case, I can not find any evidence that the applicant in the Passadumkeag Project took these concerns seriously. I have several questions that I would like to see you demand answers to:
What actual on the ground surveys were done for Lynx in and around the project area? We know from those who use the area that Lynx are present, so why were on the ground tracking surveys not done?
Has anyone from MDEP contacted local MDIF&W Game Warden Paul Farrington, to get his personal opinion about the local Lynx population? Having spoken to him myself, I know that he is quite knowledgeable on the subject.
Has anyone from MDEP asked Mark McCollough at The United States Fish and Wildlife Service if he has specific concerns about Lynx, Bats, Birds, or other Threatened/Endangered species, including Turtles? Has he gone on the record as saying that this project will definitely NOT have an unreasonable adverse impact on any of these species? If he is not able to say, in writing, that there will be no unreasonable adverse impact, then the project must be denied.
Mr. McCollough refused to appear as a witness in the Bowers case, but in a phone conversation with me while I was preparing for that case, he expressed concern that not enough studies had been done on Lynx populations in this general area, and he also expressed concern for the potential of catastrophic bird mortality events. He went on to recommend that Jennifer Vachon from The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife should be involved with Lynx Studies in the area, and he told me that USFWS was so concerned with the possibility of Lynx mortality that they were considering requiring any wind projects in potential Lynx habitat to gate their roads, to prevent access by hunters and trappers as well as to prevent Lynx/vehicle collisions. Most people in the area are under the impression that the wind project area will be open to both vehicle and foot traffic after construction. Has this access issue been considered by MDEP? Although this conversation took place over a year ago, before the population of Myotis Species Bats in Maine had been confirmed to have experienced the severe die off from White Nose Syndrome, Mr. McCollough expressed great concern over the effect of additional wind turbine mortality on an already stressed population. But, as he would not attend the public hearing, and as he told me that he was much too busy to even read, let alone comment on, most new wind applications, much of this information will not be forthcoming and confirmed unless MDEP Staff directly and specifically question Mr. McCollough.
I am requesting that MDEP place a phone call to Mr. McCollough presenting him with these questions, and requesting a written response, for the record.
Has anyone at MDEP spoken to Jennifer Vachon at MDIF&W about her concerns for Lynx in the area? I am requesting that she too receive a phone call and a request for a written response regarding potential impacts to Lynx and/or Lynx habitat, for the record. If she can not say, in writing, that there will be no unreasonable adverse impact, then the project must be denied.
Has anyone from MDEP spoken to John DePue at MDIF&W about his specific concerns for Bat mortality, especially given the recent news that certain species are facing 80 to 100 percent mortality in certain areas of Maine, due to White Nose Syndrome? Can he say that we can afford to risk loosing even one more Bat to wind turbines under the current circumstances? I am requesting that Mr. DePue also receive a phone call with a request for written details of his specific concerns for Bat mortality at this project site, and cumulatively, at all Maine wind project sites. If he can not say, in writing, that there will be no unreasonable adverse impact, then the project must be denied.
Even if these experts offer the opinion that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse impact on the animals and habitats in question, the MDEP must remember that it is still only an opinion. Such an opinion must be backed up with science and facts, not just ‘because I said so,’ in order to carry any weight. The duty of MDEP is not to simply take an opinion [even an expert opinion] at face value, but to actually study the situation, gather the facts, apply ALL of the available information, and make decisions that are in the best interest of the Resource which they are charged with protecting. Just because an ‘expert’ is willing to abdicate his responsibility to the Resource in favor of political expedients [yes, it has been known to happen], does not absolve MDEP from ultimate legal and moral responsibility to protect that Resource.
Despite the applicant’s [in the Bowers case--First Wind], claims in later news articles, a careful review of the Bowers record will show that the LURC Commissioners never actually determined that the project would not have unreasonable adverse impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat. They simply decided to spend their limited time deliberating on the scenic impact, as it was obvious that this was huge. I would ask the MDEP to review the relevant parts of my testimony and my cross examination of the applicant’s consultants as well as of the MDIF&W personnel in the Bowers case, [available at the above link], and carefully consider that information in making any determination as to the potential effects of the Passadumkeag Project on animals and/or animal habitat.
On the subject of “Financial Capacity,” I can only say that while it may be true that the applicant in the Passadumkeag Project has the financial capacity to build the project, it has not yet been proven. The pages from the application that I was able to review were mostly blacked-out redaction. In my view, there was nothing presented that came anywhere near providing the proof of financial capacity that is required under Maine Law. This in and of itself should have been reason to deny the application from being deemed complete and ready for processing.
On the subject of Unreasonable Adverse Scenic Impact, which is perhaps the criteria that the approval or denial of this application is most likely to center on, all I can say is, the facts speak for themselves. The applicant’s so called ‘survey’ is a joke, and the petitions submitted by actual users of the resource, along with the testimony at the July 12 meeting in Greenbush, should be considered as more than overwhelming evidence that the applicant has failed to meet their burden of proof on this count. Combine this with the information on scenic impact as provided in the full Public Hearing held by LURC in the Bowers case, and it becomes obvious to even the casual observer that the scenic impact of this project is most certainly unreasonably adverse, and reason enough to deny the permit.
While on the subject of scenic impact, I would like to comment on an obvious problem with the MDEP process. You have retained David Raphael, of Land Works, as you ‘independent’ third party visual consultant. Given the fact that Mr. Rafael was the visual consultant hired by First Wind to convince the LURC Commissioners that the Bowers Project would not have an unreasonable adverse scenic impact, and given the fact that the LURC Commissioners [as well as virtually every user of the resource who commented], unanimously and emphatically disagreed with him, I have to ask; Why is he now considered qualified to provide ‘unbiased’ recommendations to the MDEP? The man’s record clearly shows that he was either terribly mistaken, or openly corrupted in the Bowers case, and yet you are now depending on him to provide you with guidance on the Passadumkeag Project. I would like to know how Mr. Rafael was chosen for this position, and why you consider his opinion to be trustworthy and reliable, given his record.
In closing, I would simply request that you follow the evidence, listen to the People who have spoken, and then do the right thing for the People and the Resource which you are charged with protecting.
I would like answers, in writing, to the questions contained in this submission, before any decision is made in this case. I would like those answers not only sent to me, but also to be made part of the official record for this case. I would also like to be put on a list of Interested Persons to be notified of any developments or updates in this case, and of its final outcome.
If I can be of any service, or if there are questions that I can help answer for you, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.
David P. Corrigan