Blue Sky West, a subsidiary of First Wind, together with a coalition of non-profit organizations representing the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) announced an agreement to protect Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) viewshed lands in Maine through the creation of a dedicated $700,000 land conservation fund.
The nationally recognized 2,180-plus-mile Appalachian Trail footpath stretches from Maine to Georgia. The Appalachian Trail Coalition groups, which include the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) and Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), are dedicated to the protection and preservation of the ANST and user experience of the viewshed.
The proposed Bingham Wind project, a 62 turbine wind energy facility, spans across Bingham, Kingsbury Plantation, Mayfield Township, Parkman, and Abbott, Maine, and will power the equivalent of about 90,000 homes per year. A.T. coalition groups have concerns on the potential impact that this and other projects may have on the ANST viewshed.
“Our organizations recognize that all energy generation sources have environmental impacts. The Bingham Wind project is no exception and it will have an expected visual presence on the A.T.” says Ken Kimball, AMC’s director of research who worked on the agreement. “The A.T. coalition organizations appreciate First Wind’s willingness to voluntarily work with us to mitigate this project’s impacts and to protect lands with a connection to the ANST viewshed.”
The agreement includes the creation of a dedicated fund for conserving land with a connection to the ANST viewshed. The Orbeton Stream Conservation Easement Project, which aims to protect 5,800 acres along the ANST in the western Maine high peaks area, is the intended recipient of the first $150,000 from the conservation fund, thereby completing the funding necessary to close on that project.
“With these safeguards in place, our focus will shift to mitigate local impacts on the land near Bald Mountain Pond, Moxie Bald Mountain and Pleasant Pond Mountain,” says Lester Kenway, president of MATC. “The Club’s approach is striking a balance between [protecting] the A.T. with regard to the need for renewable energy.”
In addition to the dedicated conservation land fund, First Wind has agreed not to propose any additional turbines to the Bingham Wind Project that would be any closer to the ANST and to install radar-activated lights on its Bingham wind turbines once the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves this technology. The use of radar-activated lighting allows the required FAA lighting to remain off except when aircraft are in the area of the project, thereby significantly reducing potential visual impacts of day and nighttime lighting to the Appalachian Trail. Based on the measures reflected in the agreement, the A.T. coalition groups do not oppose the Bingham project.
Appalachian Mountain Club
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Maine Appalachian Trail Club
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