LEXINGTON TOWNSHIP – In the northwestern corner of Maine, the Highland Mountains rise up from Sandy Stream Valley. They are the gateway to the spectacular Bigelow Preserve, which lies next to Flagstaff Lake. The section of the Appalachian Trail traversing the Bigelow Range in the preserve is one of the most spectacular parts of the whole AT.

This iconic wild country attracts thousands of visitors a year who seek the solitude and magic of Maine’s mountains.

All this is about to change if Angus King’s proposal to put 48 400-foot-tall turbines on the Highland Mountains is approved. King’s column in last week’s Telegram (”Wind power myths blow away”) tried to dispel what he called ”myths.”

But I want to talk about the truth.

In order to erect these 400-foot turbines (over 40 stories high), according to the application the former governor submitted to the Land Use Regulation Commission, 1.6 million cubic yards of blasted rock and debris will be generated in the leveling of the mountaintops.

This would fill 100,000 trucks, which if lined up would stretch from the Highland Mountains all the way to North Carolina. Interestingly, North Carolina has put a moratorium on mountaintop wind because they recognize the importance of the mountains as a primary economic engine.

In addition to this habitat destruction, these massive machines individually move at over 180 miles an hour, sweep more than an acre of space and broadcast high volume sounds which have literally driven people in Maine from their homes.

Maine sound regulations were not designed for wind turbines. Acceptable levels in Maine are 15 decibels above recommended levels established by the World Health Organization.

It is not only audible sounds which cause a problem to people and wildlife, but probably more damaging are low-frequency sound waves that are emitted from these industrial power plants.

It is well documented that the low-frequency sounds and shadow flicker, which can travel miles from the turbines, pose serious health risks. The neurological health problems have been labeled as Wind Turbine Syndrome. People experiencing WTS can exhibit elevated heart rates, memory problems, visual blurring, nausea, sleep disturbance, and chronic headaches.

Due to the mountainous terrain in the Highland area, many folks living within two miles can expect to have their rural quite soundscape significantly altered. The pristine quiet of the wild lands will be shattered forever.

The ”dirty little secret” of this proposal is that carbon reduction benefits of mountaintop industrial wind are marginal. Since wind only produces electricity intermittently — when the wind blows — wind turbines require keeping back-up power available and fired up. Coal and oil plants are not shut off.

In fact, it is estimated that if California is to reach a goal of 20 percent wind energy, it will have to build at least 40 new conventional power plants (probably carbon-producing — and expensive).

Mountaintop industrial wind is not cost-competitive with other forms of power generation. The only reason mountaintop wind is moving forward is due to the huge federal subsidies — your tax dollars. In the Highland Mountains, about $180 million of the $270 million price tag will be paid with federal subsidies.

Only about six permanent jobs will be created, although there would be a good number of temporary jobs during the mountain leveling-construction phase.

If the tax dollars being spent on mountaintop wind were spent on energy conservation or forest restoration, the carbon reduction benefits would be huge and thousands of more permanent jobs would be created.

The visual impact of 48 400-foot turbines with a total of 35 lights will destroy the current quality of place and certainly alter the night sky. To many Highland residents, it will be as if the Portland jetport has been placed in their backyards. Outdoor recreationists may wonder why they bothered to leave home.

It is not just the Highland Mountains under assault from gigantic industrial wind electrical generation plants. Potentially 360 miles of ridgeline are threatened. If these turbines were built it would result in as many as 50,000 acres of clearcuts and thousands of miles of new power lines and roads.

Maine exports energy now. It has been estimated that Maine and the rest of New England will have excess capacity for the next 15 to 20 years.

I have always and will continue to support alternative energy — including wind.

However, mountaintop wind is both an ecological and economic boondoggle. It is time to take a step back from industrial mountaintop wind power and to develop an energy policy that is not driven by the profits to be made from federal subsidies.

After this mountaintop gold rush has played out, Mainers will be left with a despoiled landscape and the magic of the mountains will be gone forever.