Patty O'Connell explains the locations
of the proposed towers,
at the Open House on Sept 30
by Joan H. Young
Yesterday I attended one of the open house sessions which provided further information about the proposal to place 15 wind turbines within the Manistee National Forest. I came away slightly better informed, but no more settled on how I feel about this proposed project. Many other people were there as well, and I heard a lot of people also bemoaning the difficulty of wholeheartedly endorsing this idea.
BP Alternative Energy provided a state-of-the-art virtual tour of the area where the turbines will be placed. Superimposed on a video of a drive down Forest Trail, approaching Lake Michigan Recreation Area (LMRA), are animations of the turbines. Thus you are able to visualize how much the towers will be seen. The answer is, from the road, not too much. Well, sort of... If some of the alternative tower sites are chosen, there are several towers which will be close to the road. And of course there are other places one might be, other than the road.
From the north viewing platform at LMRA only the tops of the towers will be visible. The virtual tour shows this. It also indicates that not much will be visible from the beach. However, the virtual tour does not point out at all the fact that the towers will be very visible from anywhere out on the water, looking back at the shoreline. I imagine they will be quite visible from the higher, south viewing platform. The virtual tour makers selected the sites to show us very carefully.
The Forest Service will be taking a lot of heat, I suspect, over this proposal. However, they are just doing their job. When Special Use Permits are requested, they are obligated to consider them. A bevy of rangers was on hand at the open house, politely answering questions and explaining things. I saw several posters, and the virtual display by the energy company, but I did not see any human representing them. Maybe they had just stepped out for a moment when I was there...
The roads which will be constructed and improved will be dirt roads; no new pavement will be laid down. Except for the eastern section between the substation and the main transmission line, all the cables will be underground.
Construction will disrupt the use of LMRA. There will be times when the access road will be closed, rendering that entire campground, beach, trail system, and other facilities inaccessible by vehicle. Of course this will be temporary.
I have come across other wind farms while hiking, particularly in New York State. In one place the North Country Trail passes quite close to the base of a turbine. And in another location there is a flock of turbines just a hill or so away. I have to say that in both of these cases, my reaction is positive. The turbines are big, yes, but impressive big, not ugly big. Somehow they don't cause the same visceral reaction of hatred that a single cell tower on a hilltop creates. They are very quiet.
And of course, they provide clean energy. It's estimated that the White Pine Wind Farm will produce 50-70 megawatts of power.
And now for the NIMBY part (Not In My Back Yard). I would love to endorse this project. But why, oh why, do they have to want to build it right next to the only designated wilderness in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Nordhouse Dunes? Nordhouse is directly to the south of the project area. The ridge on which a great deal of that wilderness sits is higher than the turbine locations. So I suspect that there will be some spots within the wilderness from which you will be able to see them. And from a boat, I suspect that not many people can easily tell where the wilderness boundary is. They just look shoreward and see a beautiful, uncluttered coastline. Now.
Well, I have 12 days to decide what my comments to the Forest Service will be. I wonder what I will say.
See Public Comment Sought on White Pines Wind Turbine Project Near Nordhouse Dunes
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See Lake Michigan Recreation Area
See Nordhouse Dunes