Six cited after Lowell Mountain wind project opponents halt construction|topnews|img|FRONTPAGE

6:41 PM, Aug 6, 2012   |  

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Police lead hand-cuffed protester Dennis Liddy Monday morning after his arrest following a blockade by protesters of the Lowell wind project’s crane path. / ROBIN SMITH/Caledonian-Record, Orleans County Reco
Written by Matt Ryan Free Press Staff Writer
Two-year-old Eva Lander of East Hardwick watches as her mother Rose Friedman talks to a TV news crew during the protest Monday morning on the Lowell wind crane path. / ROBIN SMITH/Caledonian-Record, Orleans County Reco

With the erection of a second turbine atop Lowell Mountain, opponents of Green Mountain Power’s wind-energy project returned Monday to again block trucks from reaching the construction site.

The five-hour protest ended when police arrested six demonstrators and dispersed the remaining crowd. It was the second demonstration against the turbine project in a month that ended with arrests.

“We held up construction all morning,” Carrie Young, 26, of Westfield said shortly after the police took her comrades into custody. “Hopefully we’ve gotten the attention of the state, because that was our goal. We tried legal ways to stop the destruction of the mountain, and they haven’t worked.”

Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure disagreed.

“These are people who participated in the extensive legal process,” Schnure said over the phone Monday morning. “They didn’t like the results, so now they’re resorting to illegal methods.”

Some 40-50 protesters took part in the blockade throughout Monday morning, Vermont State Police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said in a statement later in the day.

At least two dozen protesters camped out on the dirt road early Monday to head off workers who started to arrive at the site at about 7 a.m.

“A whole line of trucks were up here, as many as 30 workers and nine trucks, and we blockaded them,” Keith Ballek, 56, of Sheffield said at about 8:30 a.m. “Another truck tried to squeeze through, and we blockaded him.”

The protesters stood on “disputed property” that both a local couple and the utility claim to own, said Ballek, whom police later identified as one of those arrested. There was a campfire and singing and dancing, he said, with performers from Glover’s Bread and Puppet Theater providing entertainment.

Ballek said he thought the wind project was “railroaded” through the legal process that preceded construction — a claim Green Mountain Power disputes.

The Vermont Public Service Board awarded the project a certificate of public good last year, following an overwhelming vote of approval by Lowell residents in March 2010. Green Mountain Power intends to build 21 turbines along the rigdeline.

In a prepared statement Monday morning, Schnure said the protesters’ “presence on the construction site creates a safety hazard, adds cost for our customers and strains finite law enforcement resources in the area, putting local towns and citizens at risk.”

Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin said his deputies were “all tied up,” and the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department would check in on the protest. Martin’s fleet of police vehicles was decimated Thursday when seven cruisers were run over and destroyed by a man on a tractor.

Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux Jr. said his department was working with the state police, and referred questions to them.

In her statement, Dasaro, the state police spokeswoman, said the six taken into custody were processed on suspicion of unlawful trespass and released with citations ordering them to appear Sept. 25 in Vermont Superior Court in Newport. They were identified as:

• Keith Ballek, 56, of Sheffield.

• Carol Irons, 71, of Albany.

• Meredith Jones, 63, of Irasburg.

• Dennis Liddy, 64, of Westfield.

• Raymond Micklon, 50, of Craftsbury Common.

• William Roddy, 66, of Barton.

Last month, about 80 protesters blocked Vermont 100 and stalled the delivery of turbine and tower parts to the construction site. Police arrested two people in that incident.

Opponents of the wind project have said the construction disrupts mountaintop wildlife habitats and mars the landscape.

“Where I stand right now there’s about a 30 foot cliff of rocks that was removed,” Young said by phone from the mountain Monday. “Right in front of where I am looks like Interstate 91.”

Young said people involved in Monday’s protest had planned to hold a “funeral for the mountain” Tuesday, but she did not know whether that would continue as scheduled.

Dasaro said state police and the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department would consult with Green Mountain Power “to discuss plans for managing further protests.”