Since our first trip to Monhegan years ago, on a birding adventure with Maine Audubon, my wife Linda and I have returned every year for a few days in May to enjoy this beautiful, peaceful place and the spring bird migration. We stay in an apartment at Island Chalet and prepare our own meals, because no restaurants are open at that time of the year. The island does have a small year-round market, where we shop.
The island’s year-round residents are super friendly and very helpful to birders. We’ve made a number of friends out there over the years. I wish I could just show you a dozen photos of the stunning scenery — they would tell you more about why this place needs to be protected than any words I’m going to write.
The island does get busy in the summer tourist season, and we even found it busy in mid-October two years ago when we returned for a travel column visit, but we still enjoyed the wonderful hikes all around the undeveloped shoreline (OK, and also the microbrewery).
So when I read recently about the controversy over a wind power project just offshore of Monhegan, I got interested and did some research. First, Maine is already behind on this. The first U.S. offshore wind farm opened recently in Rhode Island.
Deepwater Wind built five turbines three miles off Block Island. The power generated there will serve about 17,000 homes. Deepwater Wind’s CEO, Jeffrey Grybowski, said this project sets the stage for lots of wind towers and projects “up and down the East Coast for decades to come.”
So, thanks to that warning, we ought to get to work figuring out where these wind towers are appropriate off our coast and where they are not.
Which brings us back to Monhegan. First of all, I have been a proponent of wind energy — provided it is constructed in appropriate places (not the conservation lands surrounding Greenville, for example).
And I have to say that Monhegan seems to be a very inappropriate place for these industrial-scale 585-foot wind towers. With 3,500 miles of coastline, and many uninhabited islands, why do they have to do this here, just two miles off Monhegan, one of the few islands with a year-round population?
This project is a partnership of the University of Maine, Cianbro Corp. and Emera Maine, so the group of island residents fighting the project is both outgunned and overwhelmed. I can only appeal to the good people at the university, Cianbro and Emera to listen to these folks and move their project someplace more appropriate. There has to be dozens, if not hundreds, of other possible locations.
Originally, this was going to be a short-term test of deep water wind turbines, but it’s turned into a 20-year major project, backed by $48 million of taxpayer money. Yes, you and I are contributing to this project — although we have no say in where it is constructed.
Well, we had a chance to say something, when the Legislature considered the project, but at that time I don’t remember hearing anything about it, either while hanging out at the State House or in the news. I’m not sure legislators knew much about this either. The on- and off-island public processes for this project have been totally inadequate, according to Travis Dow, founder and president of Protect Monhegan, the group fighting to relocate this project. Travis, his wife, and her two sons and mother-in-law live on the island. Lucky them!
And Travis is struggling to get any traction in the islanders’ efforts to move this huge project. “Because all of this is happening on a small island 10 miles out to sea,” he wrote recently in an op-ed column, “no one seems to care that this has been such a deeply flawed process.”
Well, I care, Travis. And I suspect, if they knew about this project and problem, a lot of other people would care too — including legislators. But I doubt there is time to get them reinvolved in this, so I return to the folks who are constructing the project.
Please. Hear the voices of the people who live and visit this very special place. And move those towers to another windy place off Maine’s shore. There are lots of them. Lots.