Cumberland Times-News

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April 7, 2013

PSC hears from both sides on Fourmile wind project

CUMBERLAND — A petition to the Garrett County Board of Commissioners in support of the proposed Fourmile Ridge wind project has grown from 94 signatures to 127 signatures, according to a Maryland Public Service Commission filing.

“This project’s approval would lay the groundwork for a definitive environmental awareness in Garrett County and also support our most important industries, including health care and education, with extra tax dollars,” states the petition.    

There aren’t any houses within a half-mile radius of this project, according to the petition.   

The PSC held a hearing in March in regard to Fourmile Wind Energy LLC’s request for an exemption from a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and Synergics’ and Fourmile Wind Energy’s request to waive the certificate requirements for a tap loop line to serve the project.

The PSC received nine letters in support of the project and seven letters in opposition. The PSC also received 89 postcards from residents in support of the project. Comments on the certificate exemption and waiver were due by March 19.

“Supporting this project is the best way to ensure our community’s economic future, provides needed construction and permanent jobs, tax incentives to Garrett County and preserves the legacy of our local farmland,” states one postcard.   

Some of those opposed to the proposed wind project voiced their concerns about environmental impacts and the Federal Aviation Adminstration’s interim determination not to approve the construction of 24 wind turbines because they are a hazard to air navigation.

A major portion — 75 percent — of the proposed project in eastern Garrett County is in the state’s designated “sensitive areas” as having rare, threatened and endangered species.

“We are troubled by the fact that the Fourmile Wind Energy, LLC project lies entirely within the watershed on two ridgelines,” read a letter from the Savage River Watershed Association Board of Directors to David Collins, executive secretary of the PSC.

During the public hearing, Matt Brewer, a partner for Bennet Brewer and Associates of Frostburg, the engineer of record for the project, said the project “will result in zero wetland impact.”

The Savage River watershed group noted that the interests and concerns of the public haven’t been fully addressed by Synergics, the developer. The letter further noted that the visual and noise pollution will affect the recreational experience of hunters on nearby private and public lands as well as hikers and bird watchers on the Big Savage Hiking Trail.

The association voiced its opposition of the proposed wind project, asked that the waiver be denied and requested a full certificate to be completed.

“As part of this licensing process, the applicant should address the full range of environmental, engineering, socioeconomic, planning and cost issues including a full environmental review document that presents the applicant’s environmental and socioeconomic studies conducted in support of the application,” writes the SRWA.

Glenn, Eddie, Gary and Jimmy Sisler, who are being represented by Matthew Yanni of The Yanni Law Firm in Martinsburg, W.Va., requested the certificate exemption be given and indicated that the project would have a minimal environmental impact.

“We are requesting an exemption because we desire that this project move forward as expeditiously as possible,” wrote Yanni, on behalf of the Sisler family, in a letter to Collins.

The exemption would put the proposed Fourmile Wind project on the fast track for PSC approval with construction slated for spring.

There are four to six wind turbines proposed on the Sislers’ 200-acre tract located on Fourmile Ridge. The Sisler family is in the timbering business.

“Due to the recent economic and environmental issues we have faced, this is an excellent time for us to transition into a clean-energy future,” wrote Yanni.

Former Garrett County resident Jim Braskey, who is a part owner of Allegany/Garrett Titles & Settlements, LLC, Frostburg, voiced his support for the wind project in a letter to Terry Romine, chief public utility law judge.

“There are many residents of Garrett County that don’t have anything but the land that they own. To deny them the right to use their land as an income source, because of restrictive regulations, leaves many with nothing,” wrote Braskey, a paralegal with Geppert McMullen, Paye & Getty, a Cumberland-based law firm with a branch office located in Grantsville.

The proposed project would be constructed in two arrays with an eastern array located on the west side of Big Savage Mountain and the western array located on Fourmile Ridge, according to Brewer. The proposed project is a mile west of the Allegany/Garrett county border.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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