Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Civil War battlefield, state line at issue in renewed debate over wind farm on Allegheny Mountain

A Civil War battlefield is the center of the latest effort to stop a wind-energy project. Two weeks ago we reported about a California community's esthetic objections to a substation needed to handle new wind power; now, residents near the Camp Allegheny Battlefield on the Virginia-West Virginia border are voicing similar complaints. "If wilderness is sacred, and if American history is sacred, then there's no doubt this place is doubly sacred," Richard Laska, a local opponent of a proposed wind energy project, told Laurence Hammack of The Roanoke Times. (Times photo by Sam Dean)

Ground was broken for a row of 19 wind turbines, 400 feet tall, on a ridge overlooking the battlefield last month. The project is the first of its kind in Virginia and would create enough electricity to power 15,000 homes, Hammack reports. Developers behind the project, Highland New Wind Energy, have called themselves "trailblazers" in the quest to bring alternative energy to Virginia. "Opponents say the trail being blazed will destroy the county's natural beauty," Hammack writes. Camp Allegheny, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was the highest military encampment above sea level during the Civil War, and the battle saw 300 soldiers die, including many who are buried near the battlefield.

"In a complaint filed with the State Corporation Commission, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is arguing that the wind-farm project will be detrimental to Camp Allegheny," Hammack reports. While no turbines will actually be constructed on the battlefield, opponents say having them within eyesight "will likely have a negative impact." (Read more)

The Pocahontas Times of Marlinton, W.Va., ran this photo illustration by Laska, showing the height of the turbine towers on the ridgeline as viewed from the battlefield, which lies in West Virginia. Official maps show one of the turbines would be in West Virginia, but a survey for the developers put it 40 feet into Virginia, limting regulation to one state. Pam Pritt of the Times reports that opponent Dawn Baldwin Barrett told the Pocahontas County Commission, “So far, Highland New Wind has skillfully avoided federal oversight of their project. Loopholes in the Virginia state regulatory process have allowed a project to go forward which is, quite simply, located in the wrong place.” (Read more)

A commisison has been named to verify the border, reports Anne Adams of The Recorder in Monterey, Va., which has covered the project most extensively because it lies in its home Highland County, but the weekly paper doesn't post full versions of its stories for non-subscribers until three weeks have passed. Its free archive is here. Its home page is here.

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