Windber Area Authority members are looking into the impact a proposed wind farm will have on an area watershed.
The board agreed Wednesday to ask geologist James Casselberry to begin studying how the construction of 38 wind turbines along Shaffer Mountain could affect water quality for authority customers.
“If in fact there is a threat, the best way to find out is to talk to a hydrologist,” said solicitor James Cascio.
The authority noted that the county windmill ordinance deals primarily with how far away the turbine is from other structures, not whether construction materials, land clearing and the associated electrical power grid will affect the environment.
“It’s just about setbacks,” said Joseph Cominsky, a vocal opponent of a turbine farm on the mountain watershed.
Cominsky, who owns land in Ogle and Shade townships, said he was approached by Gamesa officials in late June about signing a property lease and easement rights for a wind development project.
Since that time the Windber resident has attended municipal meetings all over the county in an attempt to raise public awareness about the project, which will be situated mainly in Shade and Ogle townships.
During the authority meeting, he displayed his most recent findings on a map showing the planned locations of the 38 turbines filed with the Somerset County Planning Commission.
“This watershed is going to be inundated with turbines,” he said.
Thirty-two turbines would be located on land belonging to the Berwind Natural Resources Corp., of Philadelphia, he said.
The company responsible for the project is Gamesa Energy USA, under the subsidiary Shaffer Mountain LLC, which was created on Nov. 16, he said.
Of particular concern to Cominsky is the proximity of several turbines to authority wells.
Wells No. 2 and No. 3 located along Cub Run are within 3,000 feet of the closest windmill, he said.
Authority manager Dennis Mash said the authority has seven wells, including the two along Cub Run and three along Shade Creek.
“The next step is to find out how that affects our water system,” he said.
Once Casselberry returns the results of his study to the board, they can begin to consider a response, officials said.
The authority has some control over property development within the watershed if it impacts the authority’s water supply, Cascio said.
“It would be some basis on which to seek an investigation,” he said. The development rights, as part of the lease, do not allow the landowner to negatively impact the defined watershed area.”
The key will be to obtain detailed construction plans from Gamesa, he said.
That request has already been made, said Mash. The authority manager said he expects the company to provide those documents and plans to him for review. Any information he receives will be forwarded to both engineers and Casselberry, he said.
By Dan DiPaolo
Daily American 30 North Chief
(Dan DiPaolo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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