Steve Wright last took to the sky in April to capture a series of dramatic bird's-eye photographs of construction at Kingdom Community Wind, the 21-turbine wind project that Green Mountain Power is constructing on a ridgeline above Lowell. He went airborne again on Wednesday this week — in the interest, Wright said in an interview with Seven Days, of documenting the ongoing construction on the mountaintop. "In some years we’ll look back at this and shake our heads," says Wright, a Craftsbury Common resident and outspoken opponent of ridgeline wind development.
"It's continually distressing that we would do this with a mountaintop, but we're moving on to a statewide campaign to make sure this doesn't happen anywhere else," adds Wright, a former commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. His concerns aren't aesthetic but rather biological. "Humans have a capacity to be able to tolerate looking at just about anything," he says. "That mountain has been forever changed in its hydrology and its entire ecological function."
Wright's photos first appeared on the Mountain Talk blog, where wind opponents post frequent photos, videos and updates. It's been a busy week for activists in Lowell. On Monday, around 45 protesters scrambled to the mountaintop to stage a peaceful protest blocking the main construction thoroughfare at the site, an event that culminated in six arrests. A day after the largely festive gathering (complete with square dancing and chanting), around 30 activists returned for a somber "funeral" for Lowell Mountain.
Green Mountain Power previously said that Wright's aerial photos only present a snapshot of a moment in time and that much of the disturbed landscaped will be re-vegetated after construction wraps up.
UPDATE: This morning, GMP spokesman Robert Dostis added that concerns like Wright's were raised during the extensive permitting process for the wind farm, were "fully vetted," and eventually the Public Service Board deemed the project to be in the public good. Dostis says that construction at the site — where the crew is now finishing the fourth complete turbine — is on schedule for completion by the end of the year.
Dostis also says that while the total "project impact" is 135 acres, GMP has conserved more than 2700 acres to mitigate that environmental impact, and nearly all of the conserved land is protected in perpetuity.
Photos by Steve Wright