Thursday, September 25, 2008

what's next

Now that the pump track is fun & done, you might see a few more topics on this stuff on this page for a while. Feel free to tune out if you like.....

The George Washington National Forest Plan Revision process is beginning again, and it's another battle with Wilderness advocates, as well as a new major player in our public lands, Wind.

I like wilderness, but not Wilderness. I try to spend as much of my personal time as possible in wilderness settings, on a bike, on skis, and even surfing. I fully appreciate protected areas and resources, like National Forests & Parks, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge etc. Those are all wilderness places, but not Wilderness places. The difference between the protected GW National Forest, and the unprotected Michaux State Forest is night & day (but this is another discussion...). I consider the GWNF well protected, but serious and new threats loom.

Check out some of the preliminary comments submitted to the FS so far. Official comment period is still months away, but many groups are already seriously on this in a big way. Read the incredible (and very long) letter by the Friends of Pendleton County. Remember that old guy who used to come to the Wild 100s and promote the Gnarly North Fork? I wonder if he's involved in this? Read also the letter from the Hang Gliders and Paragliders organization. What do you think 200' wind tubines will do to their sport? Most of the comments are pro-wilderness, anti-wind, and pro-species. I found the word "bike" only one time in all those pages, and it wasn't even from a mountain biker, though the writer was at least throwing us a bone in the Sherando area.

The meeting section of GWNF website

I like the idea of wind energy as part of our global future, but I don't like the idea of using our public lands for it. At this stage of the game, utility scale wind energy production is barely profitable for the energy companies despite large subsidies. Wind also contributes very little to the grid, and has not replaced any coal-fired power plants. It may in time, but I wonder if the future of wind energy lies more in small wind. Small wind is defined as smaller turbines used on ranches, farms, and by townships and counties. Small wind is generally located on private land.

I'm not anti-wind, in fact, I'm very interested in the GIS side of the alternative energy industry and would even consider hitching my own future to it in some way. But the current way that wind energy is controlled by subsidies and large energy companies like Dominion, Allegheny, etc. indicates that it's no different from the oil and coal industries right now. And their target, for cheap windy land, is our National Forest ridge tops.

If you read the hang gliders concerns, you know that they consider the whole Massanutten ridge as a unique national resource. Those ridges were listed as potential for wind development. If you've ever ridden your bike on those ridges, you know that that idea is ludicrous. You know how narrow those ridges are. Can you imagine the disturbance needed to construct the roads to carry those long turbine double-trailers; and the huge cranes needed to lift the turbines; and the huge flat spot that would need to be created to hold the concrete pad for each turbine?

Look at the marginal ratings for utilty scale wind on the Mass. ridges. Note the higher potential in Shenandoah Nat'l Park, and west on the North Fork and North Mountain ridges. Look out Wolf Gap area....

Note how much more utility scale wind potential there is in the coastal region. Look at the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James river basins compared to the ridgetops of Massanutten and Great North mountains.
The National Renewable Energy Lab's GIS app
Wind Powering America (wind research, mostly pro-wind)
Anti-wind in Pennsylvania

I'll be sending in my comments and stories to the GWNF Supervisor Hyzer. They will be pro-bike, pro-Scenic Area, and anti-wind.

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