North Country
3:29 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Wind Farm Owner OK With Expanding Ski Slopes At Balsams If Safety Isn't An Issue

 

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR
Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

The company that owns the wind farm near the Balsams is open to reducing the buffer zone between its wind turbines and the slopes, a key to a developer’s plan to  greatly expand  the size of the ski resort.

"As long as it is safe, we have no problems," Brookfield Renewable Power lawyer Harold Pachios said late Monday.

Maine entrepreneur Les Otten would like to quadruple the size of the Balsams ski area and reopen the hotel.

But Otten’s plan to make the ski runs longer requires skiers to get closer to the tops of mountains where the wind farm has turbines.

Currently there is a 1,300 foot buffer. That’s so people won’t be hit if turbine blades throw chunks of ice.

The idea is to reduce that buffer to something more like 500 feet.

Pachios says Otten contacted Brookfield about the change. The company said it wanted a study of whether there would be an impact on safety and Otten would have to fund it.

Coos County officials originally recommended a 1300 foot buffer zone but the three commissioners are now in favor of a change, citing the possible economic boost to the region.

If Brookfield does okay reducing the buffer the change would need the approval of the state’s Site Evaluation Committee because it originally approved the wind farm.

Otten has said he is working with the owners of the Balsams, Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert, although the trio has yet to provide any details of the relationship, including funding.

Otten couldn’t be reached for comment.

The resort has been closed for just over two years, putting about 300 part and full-time employees out of work. Several attempts at funding the hotel’s renovation have fallen through.

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