PAINT TOWNSHIP – Supervisors went on record Monday evening to oppose a proposed wind turbine project because it is located within the township’s watershed.
Chairman Jeffrey Eash proposed “to send a letter to various agencies opposing the wind turbine development in the watershed area.”
Paint Township has now joined Windber Borough council and Paint Borough council in issuing statements of opposition to the project set to begin construction later this year along the ridge line of Shaffer Mountain.
The project will bring 33 wind turbines to both Somerset and Bedford counties, with 29 of those within the Somerset area, according to documents submitted to the Windber Area Authority by developer Gamesa Energy USA.
Joseph Cominsky, a vocal opponent to the project and mountain property landowner, urged the supervisors to approve the letter during the meeting.
The resident voiced concerns over the long-term impact the creation of a wind farm would have on the watershed’s three high-quality cold water trout streams and the overall water quality for local residents. “It’s an area that can never be replaced,” he said.
Cominsky said that the majority of the damage to the watershed will occur during the construction phase of the project, with the wind company building access roads, electric transmission lines and a cement batching site on the property in addition to the turbines.
While the township does not have the ability to regulate the development as it lies primarily within the borders of both Shade and Ogle townships, supervisors went on record to oppose the project.
The local agency with the most clout in the regulation of the project appears to be the Windber Area Authority, which can impose building restrictions upon the project in respect to how close the turbines can be situated to authority well heads.
Authority wells No. 2 and No. 3, located along Cub Run, are within 3,000 feet of the closest turbine, authority Manager Dennis Mash said. The authority has seven wells within the project area, including the two along Cub Run and three along Shade Creek.
In December, the authority asked geologist James Casselberry to study the possible effects of the wind farm on the watershed.
The authority also requested specific construction plans for the site, which Gamesa complied with in a letter dated Dec. 21.
The authority noted at the time that current Somerset County windmill zoning ordinances deal 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.
The majority of the wind turbines are located on land belonging to the Berwind Natural Resources Corp., of Philadelphia.
Cominsky, who owns land in both 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.
By Dan DiPaolo
6 March 2007
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