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County commissioners look to formally oppose additional wind power development in Moosehead Lake region

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Piscataquis County Commissioners are looking to follow their counterparts in Somerset County by drafting a letter to express their opposition to additional industrial-scale wind development near Moosehead Lake. The commissioners authorized County Manager Tom Lizotte to write a letter during a Sept. 19 meeting, and the document is scheduled to be on the agenda for the Tuesday, Oct. 3 session for a formal vote.

The commissioners met with Greenville Junction resident Christopher King of the Moosehead Region Futures Committee Steering Committee who said NRG Energy is looking to develop a site in Somerset County near Moosehead Lake that could be used to provide power to the state of Massachusetts. “By the end of January we should know if this one project is accepted or not,” King said.

He said if the contract is awarded to NRG it can then start the permit application process, possibly within hours or several days.

King said a public hearing was held last month in Rockwood, and from the testimony then and at other meetings the Somerset County Commissioners drafted their letter in opposition to industrial-scale wind development (which can be found at http://www.mooseheadregionfutures.com). The letter is addressed to Gov. Paul LePage, Somerset County delegates, the state, the Land Use Planning Commission, Department of Environmental Protection and Massachusetts electricity providers.

“If you are on a trail and see a bear you are supposed to look big and make a lot of noise so it runs off, and we are hoping if we look big and make a lot of noise then they may go elsewhere,” King said, saying the hope is to send a packet full of letters and more to officials in Massachusetts showing opposition to wind power development near Moosehead Lake.

He said near 500-foot wind turbines in Somerset County would be visible from many locations in and around Moosehead Lake in Piscataquis County.

“Even though the project is not in Piscataquis County, it will have a visual effect,” Lizotte said, saying this is contrary to the efforts to brand the Moosehead Lake region as “America’s Crown Jewel.”

“Tourism is our biggest contributor, people who come up don’t want to see windmills they want to see forests, nature,” Commissioner Jim Annis said. He also said he did not like the fact the project would serve Massachusetts residents and not the state of Maine.

Commissioners Chair James White said he was not in favor of what he called “winner and losers” with some energy projects being chosen over others, such as a push for windmills over other power sources such as dams.

In other business, the members of this year’s budget advisory committee were formally approved. “Everyone has agreed to serve one more term,” White said about the three whose terms ended after 2016.

The committee will be made up of Thomas Carone of Sangerville, William Thompson of Guilford, Vera Davis of Shirley Mills, Mark Kinney of Atkinson, Chris Maas of Dover-Foxcroft, Jane Conroy of Dover-Foxcroft, Luke Muzzy of Greenville, Scott Snell of Big Moose Township and Terry Knowles of Brownville. Davis, Maas and Snell all had expiring terms.

“They are enthusiastically on board again,” Lizotte said. “I believe we will have our first meeting on Oct. 5, which is a Thursday.”

In his report Lizotte said the first drafts are done for the 2018 county and 2018-19 unorganized territory budgets — the two spending plans follow different calendars.

“The county budget has an increase for next year but I just found out from our auditor we have a healthy surplus,” the county manager said. He said the surplus funds may be used to mitigate the increase, and the unorganized territory budget is down from the last fiscal year,

“The county budget that needs work, but that is why we go through the budget process,” Lizotte said.

The budget advisory committee meets in October and November. A public hearing on the proposed budgets is held the Monday after Thanksgiving, which will be during the evening of Nov. 27. From there the commissioners formally vote on the respective 2018 and 2018-19 budgets during a December meeting.

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