TransCanada conservation agreements reached

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AUGUSTA – A month into its road construction for the 44-turbine Kibby Wind Power project north of Eustis, TransCanada Energy Corp. is holding a press conference on Thursday morning to announce a conservation agreement it’s reached against developing 1,100 acres of ridgeline surrounding the wind project area and, additionally, that it will donate $500,000 towards the land conservation along the Grafton Loop Trail.

TransCanada officials plan to make the Kibby Wind Power Project Conservation Agreement announcement on Thursday at the Augusta Country Club, according to a press statement released today.

TransCanada has agreed to not develop additional wind power on approximately 1,100 acres of high-elevation ridgelines near the project site. The energy company is also contributing $500,000 towards a larger conservation effort by the state in partnership with the Trust for Public Land. “TransCanada’s contribution will ensure the protection of a buffer along approximately four miles of the Grafton Loop Trail, a backcountry hiking trail with exceptional scenic and ecological value,” according to the release.

“It’s very significant,” said Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine of the TransCanada contributions. The Kibby ridgeline surrounding the wind farm will be protected from development. He noted the area sits at or above 2,700 feet in elevation, has steep slopes and supports a diverse mountain alpine habitat.

“It’s important that area be protected from further  development,” Didisheim said. The second part of the agreement is for TransCanada to donate $500,000 towards the 3,300-acre Grafton Loop Trail land conservation project in the Mahoosuc Range. About 750 acres will be conserved with the funding. Didisheim said that area is recognized as being an ecologically sensitive high mountain alpine habitat.

“Development has its impacts, no question about that. We endorsed this project because it helps meet Maine’s clean energy challenge, with the additional benefit of conserving land,” Didisheim said. 

The $270 million project along the ridgelines of Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range, is expected to be completed in 2010, with half, or 22 of the 44 turbines on line by late next year and the rest completed the following year. Road construction, which includes building or rebuilding more than a dozen miles of roads for construction purposes started at the beginning of last month.

Once completed, the Kibby Wind Power Project will be the largest wind power development in New England, and is expected, the energy company has said, to produce 132 megawatts which will provide enough electricity for the equivalent of 50,000 average Maine homes.

It is expected that a total of 250 people will be employed for the construction of the wind project, and at its completion, 10 to 12 permanent employees will be needed to oversee the turbines’ maintenance.

In early June, Franklin County commissioners unanimously approved a $12.9 million tax increment financing plan for the Kibby Wind Power Project.

The TIF will capture 75 percent of the taxes raised by the estimated $270 million project for the first 10 years of operation, then 50 percent for the 10 years after that. Sixty percent of those captured revenues, capped at $8.9 million over the 20 years, would go to TransCanada. The other 40 percent of captured revenues, capped at $4 million, would be used to fund a series of Franklin County investments in the unorganized territories. Should the caps be reached, all remaining money garnered through the TIF will be released from the program to the state.

On Thursday, members of the Kibby Wind Power Project team will be on hand to thank the environmental leaders who participated in the development of the conservation agreement; including representatives from the Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Trust for Public Land.

Kibby Range in the distance.

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