by Bethany M. Dunbar, February 26, 2010
So we have found someone to cover every single Town Meeting in Orleans County, plus Brighton, and all the letters to the editor that could possibly get shoehorned into this week’s Chronicle are there — or at least shortened versions of them.
So I can take a deep breath and realize that now it’s okay to actually get excited that Town Meeting Day is Tuesday.
Call me crazy, but it’s got to be just about my favorite day of the year. You just never, ever, know what’s going to happen. The people come forward and share some baked beans and pie and vote on the decisions so important to their towns, schools, roads, electricity, and anything else they want to, under other business. That stuff might be non-binding, but it’s still important and interesting.
Every vote counts, and every citizen in every town has an equal ability to speak up and be heard.
I did not have time to write an editorial, or opinion, about the wind vote in Lowell. But if I did, I would have urged the voters to turn it down. Not that I’m completely anti-wind, either. But I just don’t see that the benefits of tearing off the tops of the wild and pristine Lowell Mountains to put up 24 400-foot turbines is worth the damage that would be done. It’s not all about the view, but hey, can we just say that yes, the view matters. In all this debate, the one thing I have not been able to understand is those who sort of scorn the idea that it’s all about “aesthetics” as if aesthetics are a flimsy excuse.
Isn’t Vermont the state that was first to put a return on bottles so we would not have to look at litter on the side of the road? Didn’t we ban signs so we could see those mountains? Hasn’t there been a longstanding tradition of keeping the wild, rural beauty of the landscape intact as much as possible?
But for some reason that’s just not important any more?
One letter writer pointed out that catamounts have been seen in Albany, near Lowell Mountain. In fact I did a story about someone photographing a catamount with a game camera triggered by motion. Catamounts don’t get to vote on the wind project, neither do the citizens of Albany and Craftsbury.
Just after that letter writer mentioned the catamount, which I think is a good point, I happened to be at the Northeast Organic Farming Association winter conference in Burlington and what did I see at UVM?
A beautiful statue of a catamount, which is of course, UVM’s mascot. If they build those turbines, will the catamounts stay? We can’t ask them. Maybe we will be left with nothing more than the statue, which would be too bad in my opinion.
I know what you are thinking. The Senate just voted to shut down Vermont Yankee, where is Vermont going to get its electricity?
I would rather see Vermont build a new nuclear plant than put wind turbines all over the mountains. It’s true that it would take a long time to build a new plant, but with the advances in technology in the last 40 years chances are pretty good it would be safe and clean.
Meanwhile we have good neighbors to the north who provide us with hydro power. We can put more effort into conservation, and research and development of methane digesters on the farms and other biomass projects. This is an area with huge potential and could not only keep the remaining few dairy farms in business, it would put some of the working landscape that is lately just sitting around growing weeds back to work.
With the money that is going to be putting into tearing off the tops of the Lowell Mountains to put up those giant turbines, we could put up a small wind tower and solar panel for a good share of homes in the Northeast Kingdom.
Also related to Town Meeting this week, I interviewed Lucille Cadieux, who has been the Town Clerk in Troy for 35 years. What a great lady. We will all miss Ms. Cadieux very, very much. I hope you will take a look at my story in this week’s Chronicle.
Vermont’s energy future is a moving target, for sure. I’d love to hear your thoughts, please post a comment whether you agree or disagree with what I said here.
Thanks again for reading and don’t forget to go to your Town Meeting and vote.