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November 02. 2012 1:06AM

Lakes Region group fights wind farm

BRISTOL - About 70 people gathered Thursday night for the first meeting of the Newfound Lake Wind Watch, a group of residents trying to stop a proposed wind farm project.

"This is going to completely trash our beautiful region of the state," said Jenny Tuthill from Alexandria, the town where the watch was formed.

Group members say the wind towers would endanger wildlife habitats and ruin the vistas of nearby Newfound Lake and Mount Cardigan State Park.

Officials from Spanish wind energy giant Iberdrola, the company now building a $120 million, 48-megawatt wind farm project in Groton, met with selectmen in Alexandria, Grafton and Danbury in October to lay out plans for the Wild Meadows Wind Power Project.

The company wants to erect 37 wind towers on 6,000 acres leased from landowners in the three towns. The project does not require the town's approval, as it is on private land. All permits and licenses to operate come from state and federal agencies, not local boards.

Alexandria Selectman Donald Sharp, who attended the meeting, said the company has not provided any dollar figures for the project's cost, or indicated what financial benefits it might offer the towns.

Groton selectmen signed a 15-year agreement with the company, which will pay the town $528,000 - roughly equivalent to the most recent town budget - in the first year. Each of the project's 24 wind turbines will net the town $22,000 in the years that follow.

Wind watch members say any financial benefits offered to the three towns would be outweighed by the negative effects of the towers.

Of the 37 towers, 30 would be erected along the top of a mountain ridge behind Newfound Lake.

"Each of these turbines would be as high as a 40-story building," said Janet Towse of the Alexandria Conservation Commission. "The roads up there will be 75 feet wide."

The project would not only affect tourism, but disturb a protected forest described by state officials as one of the most diverse wildlife areas in New Hampshire.

Sharp said he is undecided on the project. Asked if selectmen could do anything to stop the project, he said, "We don't know - probably not."

Denise Schneider, one of the group's organizers, led a discussion about ways citizens can try to stop the project - by writing and calling congressmen, federal agencies, and the company itself. Another suggestion was that residents acquire conservation easements to protect their acreage, since the company still needs to acquire land for roads.

"We needed to get this meeting going quick, because this company is moving quickly," she said. "The people of Groton waited too long to intervene."

On the Net: newfoundlakewindwatch.com

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Dan Seufert may be reached at dseufert@newstote.com.


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