Power to the people

To the Editor:

Over the years, I have appreciated the well-written and thoughtful editorials in the Islander. The paper’s recent editorial on the dire need for sensible land use ordinance provisions for the location of the Emera half-acre plus substation was absolutely on target.

Our whole community needs to be involved in a process that is transparent and open to all. The recent work of the Deer Task Force is an excellent example of citizens asking for help, the town council responding, and, after two years of public meetings, hearings and extensive media coverage, the citizens being able to vote the proposal up or down.

Surely a massive substation that handles power for the entire town was as important, if not more important, than a deer herd management plan. In stark contrast to the well-publicized and organized deer management issue, one of our most densely populated neighborhoods (zoned residential) discovered they were getting a substation only when clear-cutting began. The project would create a massive, noisy, hazardous, 26,000-square-foot electrical substation with 30-foot steel structures looming in these peoples’ backyards.

The vegetative screening for the original plan (arborvitae) would have been devoured by the deer herd, and the steel and barbed wire fence and looming towers would never have been effectively screened from homes as little as 60 feet away.

So, in desperation, this neighborhood of children and hard-working adults (teachers, nurses, lobstermen, lab staff, small business owners, elderly and disabled), typically self-reliant and reluctant to complain, said “help!”

It’s been a long and continuing process. But Emera has established an advisory committee to address these citizen concerns. I am grateful for its efforts. I am a member of that committee, but do not write on its behalf, but only as a citizen and a neighbor.

We have been struggling to come up with alternatives. Why? Because we don’t want any other residential neighborhood to face what we potentially face on Woodbury Road. No neighborhood should have the shock of this large a structure placed in its midst without any open and collaborative process.

The advisory committee is a good start, but this situation could have been prevented years ago if the town council had used a professional planner, specially created committees and an open governmental process to anticipate the town’s need for electricity.

The town could have planned for more appropriate placement of such a large industrial structure.

Even now, both the town and the business community can help plan for alternative locations and designs and help share the burden as well as the benefit of a growing tourist economy.

Please come to the public meetings on Thursday evenings at 6-8 p.m. at the town office. We need help in finding alternative sites and designs to make this very important substation and transmission line project work. It can be done without placing the enormous burden of blight, noise, danger and property value loss on a family-centered neighborhood that has played no real role in the increasing demand for power.

Similarly, every lover of the wonderful vistas Acadia National Park provides should urge Emera to place red balloons on thirty foot lines so that we all can imagine what the project would look like from the Cadillac Mountain Summit Road or hiking trails.

Steve Sloan, the project manager for Emera, is the contact person for questions and concerns.

Donna Karlson

Bar Harbor