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UPDATED: Guides, lodge owners honor LePage for stance against wind power

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Gov. Paul LePage (left) with the paddle presented to him by Maine Guides and lodge owners. With him is Dale Tobey, a second-generation guide who handcrafted the paddle from a tree he felled. (Photo by Scott Moody)

(This story has been updated with information added by Dan Remian, who helped organize the Governor’s visit.)

A group of economists, financial advisers, hedge fund managers, Federal Reserve advisers and bankers come from around the world each year to participate in “Camp Kotok,” a quiet and exclusive summit at Leen’s Lodge in Grand Lake Stream, a remote plantation in Washington County.

The annual weekend retreat is typically a low-key, relaxing and off-the-record respite for industry insiders, but this year they had a special guest: Governor Paul LePage.

Kevin Gurall, director of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, Gary Campbell, president of PPDLW, and Dan Remian of Cushing put together a plan to introduce the governor to Camp Kotok, the lodge owners, guides and beauty of the downeast lakes.

Remian invited Governor LePage to David Kotok’s financial summit to help the Governor promote his “Open for Business” message and meet Kotok’s group, which invests $200-$300 million in Maine.

George Gervais, commissioner of Economic and Community Development, and Adrienne Bennett, director of communications, accompanied the Governor.

Representatives of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, which is a local group organized to fight First Wind, and the Grand Lake Stream Guides Association, as well as local lodge owners, recognized the governor for his stance against industrial grid-scale wind power. They also asked for Governor LePage’s help in protecting their businesses from economic harm that would result if a proposed wind project were allowed to go forward.

On Friday, August 3, the first night of the Camp Kotok, the group presented Governor LePage with a paddle in honor of his position on wind power. Dale Tobey felled the tree that was used to make the paddle and hand finished it for this occasion. Pyrographer Deb Cochran, an employee at the Pine Tree Store, provided the beautiful inscription on the paddle.

Tobey is a second-generation guide who carries out the tradition of creating handcrafted Grand Laker canoes, paddles and other items during the winter months. J.R. Mabee, president of the Grand Lake Stream Guides Association, which represents 43 guides in the area, presented the paddle to Governor LePage. Governor LePage didn’t disappoint the crowd, calling wind turbines an expensive “boutique energy source.”

The governor said he is trying to reduce energy costs for Maine, preferring to use existing sources that are much less expensive, such as natural gas and hydropower. Governor LePage pointed out that Maine already has proven, less-expensive sources of renewable energy. “Like hydro, hydro and more hydro,” he said.

Although its first proposal was struck down, First Wind is now trying to build 27 wind turbines in Carroll Plantation and Kossuth Township. The massive turbines would dominate the skyline above the watershed and result in destruction of the pristine natural habitat and a loss of outdoor tourism, according to the guides and lodge owners.

Those attending Camp Kotok have gathered at Leen’s Lodge on the pristine shores of West Grand Lake every year for two decades, allowing leaders in economics and financial markets to speak candidly and privately, debate policy and mull over the most pressing economic issues. They revere the quiet, secluded and unspoiled nature of West Grand Lake, which offers of excellent fishing and other traditional outdoor activities.

The retreat is named for David Kotok, chairman and chief information officer of Cumberland Advisors in Sarasota, Fla., who has been coming to enjoy the remote beauty of Grand Lake Stream for 20 years. Back then, Kotok invited a few fellow economists to join him, and the event has since blossomed into a gathering of about 50.

Inviting Governor LePage to dinner was a first for Camp Kotok. “I was particularly impressed by his commitment to manage the state’s debt, reduce debt ratios, pay Maine’s bills in full and operate its government with a business-like approach,” Kotok said. “Maine is a very good muni credit and likely to get better. It is heading toward improvement. In Muniland, the key is to do the homework and avoid trouble patches. Illinois is an example of a state we are currently avoiding. And in Maine we met a governor who vows that his state will not be like Illinois. We thank him for joining us.”

Scott Moody, CEO of The Maine Heritage Policy Center, who watched the presentation to Governor LePage, has been a regular attendee at the retreat. Camp Kotok is estimated to attract about $200,000 in lodging, food and guide fees to the area.

“The village of Grand Lake Stream anchors the Down East Lakes Watershed,” Gurall told the governor and those gathered for the presentation. “The watershed encompasses 134,000 acres and is comparable in size and importance to Moosehead Lake and to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Except for small pockets of residential development, this watershed fully retains is wilderness character and scenic magnificence. We are extremely pleased to have you visit one of Maine’s best-kept secrets today.

“The characteristics of the watershed were severely threatened three years ago when First Wind LLC of Boston erected three meteorological towers on Bowers Mountain and the abutting long ridgeline that overshadows the watershed and particularly it’s northernmost lakes,” Gurall said.

“The proposal called for 27 turbines, each of which would be 43 stories tall,” he said. “Considering that our tallest building in Maine—the Franklin Towers in Portland—is only 208 feet tall, these industrial monoliths on their own would be more than twice that height, and they proposed erecting them at a location that was already 700 to 1,200 feet above the surrounding lakes.”

Gurall and three neighbors joined to fight the proposed grid-scale industrial wind project and formed the Partnership for the preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed (See www.ppdlw.org.)

“As you are aware, with the help and support of the lodge and sporting camp owners and a significant number of professional Maine guides—in fact, this area has the highest per capita number of guides in the entire state—we were the first industrial wind project opposition group who successfully defended a proposed wind turbine project in the state,” Gurall said.

Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission voted unanimously to deny the permit based on the scenic impact of the project on 10 lakes, which had been determined to be of statewide or national significance in the state’s “Wild Lands Lake Assessment” study.

“LURC deemed that this project would have an undue adverse impact, not only on the scenic qualities of this watershed, but also would have a severe negative impact on the sporting-based tourism business that is the lifeblood of this area,” Gurall said.

“But before the ink was dry on LURC’s denial, John Lamontagne, executive vice president of First Wind, stated that the company would be back with another project proposal by the fall,” he said. “They think that they can satisfy the DEP’s requirements by simply moving a couple of turbines or eliminating one or two. As one of the LURC commissioners stated in the previous denial document, even one 43-story turbine overshadowing this pristine watershed with its wilderness character is one too many.

“While your primary purpose for being here today is to participate in David Kotok’s annual financial summit meeting, we wanted to take advantage of your visit to recognize your stance against industrial grid-scale wind power and to ask for your help in protecting our businesses from certain economic ruin if this project is allowed to be built,” Gurall said to Governor LePage.

The livelihoods of many business owners are threatened by the First Wind project. Those present included Charles Driza, who with his sister Cecilia own and operate Leen’s Lodge; Lindsay Wheaton, who owns and operates the Grand Lake Lodge with her husband, Chris; John and Mary Arcaro, who own Canal Side Cabins and Steve Norris, owner of The Pines Lodge, whose family has a significant history of sporting camp and lodge ownership.

Also among those present were, Tobey’s brother Dave, who has been active in the Downeast Lakes Land Trust conservation association and is involved in any issue that affects the watershed; and Lou Cataldo, a fourth-generation guide and Grand Lake Streams selectman whose family has a very rich history in this area.

“Maine does not now need additional electric energy,” Dan Remian said to Governor LePage. “Just one combined-cycle gas plant, such as the Calpine plant in Westbrook provides 543mw on a footprint of only 1.94 acres.

“To equal the output of this one small gas plant with wind turbines of the type generally used in Maine, you would need a wind farm with 362 turbines on 2,520 acres,” Remian said. “That would be with 100% output from the turbines; this is not possible in Maine. At a very conservative output of 30%, it would take a wind farm with 1,207 turbines on 8,401 acres versus less than two acres for the gas plant.

“This destruction of such a vast amount of natural resources for an unreliable and unnecessary energy source must be terminated,” Remian told the governor. “A report from your Office of Energy has many beneficial recommendations, including one to convene a panel to identify areas where wind would be allowed. We are anxious to see this and many of the recommendations implemented.”

Charles Driza, owner of Leen’s Lodge, said that Camp Kotok is the most important event of his business year. The people of Grand Lake Stream were pleased to see the attention Camp Kotok and Governor LePage’s visit generated for the area.

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson the editor of The Maine Wire. A native of Dexter, Maine, Robinson is a graduate of Bowdoin College.

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jtc_dot_827 says:

take your own action…..take down their turbines and their power lines…..there is nothing they could do to stop a well coordinated and concerted effort, as they are spread much, much, much too thin.

lilyloo says:

DON”T let it happen!!!!!  In Sweden they have what are referred to as “stop areas” …”stop areas” are designated as places where there are considered to be “areas of conflicting interest such as military bases, schools, conservation areas, residential areas, areas of recreation, of scenic beauty”  WHY does Sweden do this…unlike Denmark which is littered with turbines…Sweden has made the choice to protect areas of concern…PROTECTION…
I would be sickened to know the areas of Maine of my youth (Rangeley Lakes Region) and the territories to the north are to be targeted for “littering” by these monstrosities that are not only intermittent energy sources BUT their gearboxes are known to have a current shelf life of 4 years on average…replacement costs upwards and over $400,000 per pop…
HYDRO? and NATURAL GAS HAVE GOT TO BE MORE COSTLY AND EFFIECIENT AND ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES!?!?

ps the state of Massachusetts is currently being littered with these out of scale war of the world looking structures and in every town there immediately arises complaints from those who are feeling the adverse impacts from the emissions these turbines do indeed have…sleep disruption is the most common…felt up to over a mile away…sleep disruption is the cause of many serious and debilitating health concerns…yet our corrupt patrick administration is doing their best to turn a blind eye to the devastation that is slowly creeping through our state…town by town wherever our state and local officials can push them through before the residents understand that these wind facitilies are NOT CLEAN and the only green is $$$$ for the wind developers…sickening…

Maine…is it still the VACATION STATE???  I SURE HOPE SO!!!!

Sandra says:

Hurrah for governor LePage!

 Barbara I don’t think your governor would listen to anyone who has any common sense.

1barbaradurkin says:

Thank you,  Governor LePage,  for standing up for citizens being victimized by industrial wind developers!  And thank you to the lodge owners and guides for showing your support for a true public servant and environmental steward. 

Governor LePage:

If at all possible, could you please contact Governor Deval Patrick, who has appointed First Wind Paul Gaynor as Advisor on renewable energy policy in MA?  He needs your counsel, and so do citizens of MA.   

Thank You,

Barbara Durkin
Northboro, MA

TruthinMaine says:

There is no place like Maine in the entire eastern USA.  We live in a treasure, as epitomized by the magnificent Downeast Grand Lakes.  Our “Quality of Place” is our greatest asset, according to the 2007 Brookings Institute report.  Baldacci sold us out to the thieves of the wind industry. 

Why should we destroy such a grand and gorgeous place with such abundant natural resources for the folly of wind power that doesn’t work, has a huge environmentally damaging footprint, and features machines that are 500 feet tall?  They don’t belong in Maine and thank you to everyone who works hard to stem the onslaught of these monstrosities.  We do not need to surround the Downeast Grand Lakes, or Baxter State Park or the western mountains with scenes like the image I attach here.  These are wind turbines of the Rollins project in Lincoln Lakes, with iconic Mt. Katahdin.

as someone who has approached the DEP with petitions and letters and the BEP as well..and with the help of a group of caring taxpayers…including a few from oakfield..we would ask the Governor to help make these deceiving companies leave our preciously beautiful State.
Baldacci and King have thrown conservation, preservation, heritage and concern for wildlife, forest and human welfare out the window with their greed – Maine will not be the better for this. We need action to stop them before it is too late.

Penny Gray says:

If First Wind had a shred of integrity, they would leave the grand state of Maine alone and peddle their ecological and economic disasters elsewhere.  Thank you, Governor LePage, for standing up to the biggest threat this state has ever faced.  And thank everyone who is involved with this fight.  We need to declare a moratorium on all industrial wind projects in a state whose biggest economic engine is tourism.  Our quality of place and scenic viewsheds are priceless.  We are the stewards of an incredibly storied and iconic landscape, and our legacy will be written to future generations in how we protected this land from such a terrible threat.
Dale Tobey, that is a beautiful paddle!

Roomtomove says:

What a beautiful setting for a retreat!  The Downeast Lakes region epitomizes all that
is special about rural Maine.

 

First Wind and its counterparts show incredible arrogance
and disregard for the People of Maine, for this state’s natural resources and for
the Regulatory Agencies which are charged with protecting both.  The very day LURC denied a permit for the
Bowers Wind Project, Lamontagne announced FW would be back with another
application.  What gall.  True to his word, FW operatives have been on
the ground ever since; attempting to sway the locals and the users.  They’ve worked the waterways to interact with
the public and they’ve met with guides, trying to manipulate them, trying to
get them to change their minds.

 

“What can we do for you?” they’ve asked.

 

“Pack up and go away,” has been the standard reply.

 

But FW will never admit that, for they are too arrogant and
too accustomed to getting their way.  The
Bowers project was the first one that has been denied to them and they don’t
appear to be able to take “No” for an answer. 

 

Such disregard for Maine people and Maine laws should tell
us all what type of entity we’re dealing with. 
They want to build this project so they are going to continue to try to
bully and coerce or cross palms with silver until they feel sufficient renewed
hope that they will prevail.  They have
no place in the Bowers neighborhood and it is time they bowed to the inevitable
and left the Downeast Lakes region alone. 

 

For those of us who cherish “Maine—the way life SHOULD be”
and for those whose very livelihood and quality of life depend on this
beautiful region, the only acceptable action FW can take is to announce it is
abandoning the Bowers wind project.

 

Karen Pease

Lexington Township, Maine

 

 

ThinkThoughtThunk says:

We’d like to borrow your Governor for a few years here in Massachusetts!