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Wind power firm wants to construct line corridor through Parkman and Abbot

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    PARKMAN — A Portland wind farm developer is looking to construct a power line corridor along the town lines of Abbot and Parkman. First Wind is looking to develop the corridor to transmit power from its Bingham Project. First Wind has constructed 62 turbines in the towns of Bingham and Kingfield and the unorganized township of Mayfield Plantation.

    First Wind is looking to transmit the wind power generated from their Bingham Project to the Central Maine Power substation in Parkman. First Wind is looking to construct their corridor adjacent to the town border along the Crow Hill Road in Parkman and the Gael’s Road in Abbot.

    First Wind has begun the process of entering into a Community Benefits Agreement with Parkman. A proposed agreement calls for First Wind to pay the town $20,000 for 20 years if a generator lead line is constructed. Under the CBA, the town would use the annual proceeds for a variety of potential uses including property tax reduction, economic development projects, land and natural resources conservation, tourism promotion and to reduce energy costs.

    Parkman will hold a special town meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 in the municipal building to consider the proposal. First Wind Director of Development for New England David Fowler discussed the Bingham Project and CBA details on Jan. 10 with the Parkman selectmen and residents.

    During the discussion, Fowler assured the townspeople that the $20,000 would be paid on an annual basis regardless if First Wind was sold to another entity.

    “The only way the payments would stop is if First Wind gave the town notice it was decommissioning the project,” Fowler said.

    The first payment would be made 180 days after the project reached commercial operation. Payments two through 20 would be made on an annual basis. First Wind already has several CBAs in place with other communities  throughout the state. Those other communities include Bingham, Moscow, Kingfield Plantation and Chester.

    Residents asked Fowler on Jan. 10 during a selectmen’s meeting how the Bingham Project would affect the town. Residents asked if the project had anything to do with the East-West Highway proposal,  if U.S. Senator Angus King was still involved with First Wind, and when maps of the proposed route would be available.

    Fowler responded that the project had no connection with the East-West Highway and that King had sold his interests in the company. He also indicated that maps would be available once a route had been finalized. So far, First Wind has reached a deal with 95 percent of the landowners near the town line, according to Fowler.

    “We are still trying to reach agreements with other landowners. If we are not able to enter into an agreement with the remaining 5 percent then we’d need to make some minor changes. If that happens the town would be notified about any changes,” Fowler said.

    When Parkman residents attend the special town meeting, Planning Board member Christian McGinn plans on voting against the proposal. He believes the Feb. 2 vote being held six weeks in advance of the annual town meeting shows the entire process is being rushed.

    “It’s all happening too quickly,” McGinn said. “People aren’t familiar enough with the proposal to make an informed decision. I think the town needs to have a moratorium on this type of project to study it before making a decision.”

    McGinn has contacted the town of Monson in hopes of duplicating the same type of moratorium enacted there last fall. Monson voters approved the 180-day-moratorium against privately financed development projects  which includes ones like the East-West Highway and utility transmission corridors.

    Fowler said the project isn’t being rushed. The project still needs to go through a Department of Environmental Protection permitting process which will take over a year to complete.

    First Wind has had only one meeting with Abbot officials. The firm will hold an informational meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5 in the Abbot town hall. Fowler will discuss the firm’s plans to place electricity transmission poles along the Gael’s Road.

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