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Thursday, March 11, 2004 03:29 am

X marks the spot

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One of several markers CWLP is using to map its power-plant property
PHOTO COURTESY OF KAY WATT

Kay Watt was working in her front yard when a couple of fishermen wandered past and asked her if she knew what those markers meant in the woods behind her house.

Markers? What markers? Watt was curious. As an avid bird watcher and environmental activist, Watt keeps an eye on the old-growth forest adjacent to her neighborhood on Lake Springfield. She has been especially vigilant since City Water, Light and Power unveiled a draft plan for construction of a "new generation" power plant at the site of its current facility just across the narrow slough. The proposal included the option of mowing down the forested to create a staging area for the massive construction project.

The fishermen directed Watt to three curious arrangements of sticks, stakes and lime constructed in the shape of a cross. Watt estimates each marker is about six feet across -- making them visible from an airplane.

The mysterious markers have Watt, her neighbors, fellow activists, and countless fisherfolk worried, because they know the symbols were put there by CWLP. Citing CWLP's recent bulldozer activity depositing a deep bed of wood chips under the power lines, they fear the markers signal a plan to use the peninsula for something other than a nature preserve.

But CWLP spokesperson Amber Sabin says the utility company has no such scheme. "We don't have any plans to build over there. It's always been our position that we would prefer to have all facilities for the plant, including coal storage, on the current site," Sabin says.

The markers are for an aerial photography that will be used to create a detailed map of the area. "It looks at exact elevation and contours for drainage and might tell us how noise will travel in certain areas," Sabin says.

Watt, however, takes no comfort in CWLP's explanation. "I just basically don't believe anything these people say," she says.

One of several markers CWLP is using to map its power-plant property

PHOTO COURTESY OF KAY WATT

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