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Concerns raised over agreement for Ice Mountain wind study


Staff Writer
August 16, 2006

Tyrone Borough Council heard from Stan Kotala, the president of Juniata Valley Audubon, a wildlife conservation organization, during public comment at Monday’s meeting.

Kotala was before council regarding the borough’s decision to lease some of its land on Ice Mountain for a wind farm study. In July, council agreed to enter into a two-year lease with Gamesa Energy USA, LLC to allow the company to use a portion of land owned by the borough, but located in Snyder Township to conduct the study to see if it is feasible to construct a wind farm there.

The lease agreement with Tyrone Borough also gives Gamesa the right to renew the lease for an additional two years if it deems it is necessary. At the time of council’s decision, solicitor Larry Clapper said, “This (the lease) does not commit the borough whatsoever to allowing the wind farm to go up on borough property. This is just the study. If the company wants to put a wind farm in, it has to ask the borough’s permission to do that and the borough can decline.”

Even before council’s decision, Kotala wrote a letter to Mayor James Kilmartin in May expressing his group’s concerns. In his letter, Kotala said Juniata Valley Audubon “is opposed to the construction of wind turbine installations on forested ridge tops in Blair County, particularly those with exceptional conservation value, such as Tyrone Borough land on Ice Mountain.”

After Tyrone’s agreement with Gamesa, Kotala submitted a similar letter to Mayor Kilmartin, which stated, “We are very disappointed to learn that the Tyrone Borough Council has signed an agreement which will allow the Spanish wind energy company Gamesa to construct a monitoring tower in preparation for an industrial wind plant on Ice Mountain.”

During his public comments, Kotala reiterated his group’s opposition to “a proposed wind plant on Ice Mountain.” He cited Ice Mountain and its surrounding area’s inclusion in the Blair County Natural Heritage Inventory conducted by the Blair County Planning Commission in 2003-05. He said it was designated “as an area of exceptional conservation value.” He also noted Ice Mountain and its surrounding area being designated as “greenways” in the revised Blair County Comprehensive Plan. Information to document the claims was distributed to council members while Kotala made his comments.

Kotala said, “If there is a decision made to have an industrial wind facility on Ice Mountain, it would show a lack of respect for the planning commission’s designation, which are a unique area, an exceptional conservation area (and a) landscape conservation area. It would show a lack of respect for a greenways designation and it would show a lack of respect for the federal guidelines governing industrial wind plant sites.”

Kotala also called the area “an unfragmented forest.”

Brian Lammers of Gamesa addressed council after Kotala’s presentation.

He said, “At this point we have entered into an agreement with the borough to study Ice Mountain. We have no intention at this point of building a wind farm. I just want to make it clear to the public we are at a very preliminary stage. Part of that stage is to do a meteorological study to determine if that site has commercial value for a wind farm.”

Lammers said other studies are done including “radar studies of the avian use of the site” and environmental studies to see what resources exist on the site.

“Those type of issues are very important to us,” said Lammers. “We plan to do our diligence before taking any further steps in that sort of development.

“We feel that wind power as a non-emitting, non-depletable domestic source of power brings with it some environmental attributes that are in keeping with the conservation ethic of the Audubon Society. In fact, New York Audubon just signed up to use 100 percent wind power for their state chapter. So, we think that is a strong statement by Audubon in support of wind power.”

In follow-up comments to The Herald, Kotala said, “(Lammers’ comments that) wind energy being a non-emitting source has some validity, but there’s no reason a wind plant has to be put in a unique, natural area and a natural area that’s been designated as being of exceptional conservation value by the Blair County Planning Commission, or in a greenway or has to be done in violation of federal guidelines.”

Tyrone Borough Manager Sharon Dannaway said the borough’s agreement with Gamesa allows the company to build a meteorological tower approximately 200 feet in height. She said the tower would be “temporary” in nature.