Under an alarming headline (“Dark money and blurred alliances drum up resistance to CMP power line project,” Sept. 13) and subheadings (“Strange bedfellows,” “Deception or open activism?”), your reporting suggests that opposition to Central Maine Power’s proposed new power line is not a grass-roots movement but an “astroturf” operation ginned up by the New England Power Generators Association, an out-of-state industry trade group.

The reality is that the more Maine people learn about CMP’s proposed project, the less they like it. A growing group of Maine organizations and citizens have been following the ongoing permitting process at the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the Maine Land Use Planning Commission and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The diverse group at the recent pre-hearing conference for the LUPC and DEP permitting processes was about as grassroots as it gets.

On behalf of Trout Unlimited, both of us were there. Trout Unlimited’s mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. We have five active chapters and about 1,800 members in Maine, including over 300 in our Kennebec Chapter, which represents the areas that will be affected by CMP’s project.

Because Maine supports the majority of the remaining native brook trout habitat in the U.S., our decision to intervene in review of CMP’s permits for this project was driven by concerns about the impacts of CMP’s project on unspoiled brook trout and salmon habitat. Those issues need to be considered in hearings on the project.

We’re not alone. Twenty-two parties have been accepted as intervenors in the DEP’s review and 30 in the LUPC review. These include fishing and whitewater guides and businesses, towns affected by the proposed project, organizations with long records of work on Maine environmental issues and many concerned individuals.

We can’t speak for the other intervenors, but our concerns are simple. This project as proposed will affect some of the state’s most important brook trout and salmon habitat. Our motion to intervene in these proceedings lays out our concerns. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife expressed similar concerns about the fisheries and wildlife impacts of the project in a 13-page letter back in May.

In CMP’s proposed new corridor from Beattie Township to the controversial crossing of the Kennebec River, the corridor will cross dozens of streams identified as brook trout habitat by the MDIFW. Many of the selected crossing locations are especially sensitive and poorly planned.

For example, the route crosses Gold Brook, a nice trout stream in Appleton Township, twice in less than half a mile. Between the two crossings, the center of the corridor never gets more than 500 feet of Gold Brook. In a little over a mile that includes this section, the line also crosses seven tributaries to Gold Brook. All of this is just above where Gold Brook is joined by the outlet of Rock Pond, one of Maine’s designated State Heritage Brook Trout Waters. Couldn’t it have been routed to minimize the number of crossings and keep an intact forested buffer?

Where the new power line crosses through the Cold Stream watershed – much of which was recently purchased by the state of Maine, with more than $7 million of public money for the explicit purpose of protecting brook trout habitat – there will be 15 stream crossings. Every one of these crossings will have a 150-foot-wide cleared corridor on both banks of the stream. Rather than the 100-foot forested buffer recommended by the MDIFW, CMP proposes to remove the mature trees that provide shade and cool water for sensitive brook trout.

In the recent Press Herald article, CMP spokesman John Carroll is paraphrased asking whether “what’s disguised to look like grassroots is really astroturf” and is quoted directly saying that “I don’t think that the New England power generators care about trout.” We have no idea whether the New England power generators care about trout, but we know we do, and we know the people of Maine do.

Trout Unlimited’s concern is real, grassroots and based on our fears about the impacts of CMP’s proposed project on brook trout and salmon. It comes directly from our Maine members’ concern about a landscape we’ve worked decades to protect. Shame on CMP for implying otherwise.