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CAPE VINCENT – If the St. Lawrence Wind Farm wants to satisfy the state Public Service Commission, it should rewind six months and start its environmental review over.
For the wind farm to build its 96 proposed turbines, it needs approval from the PSC in the form of a certificate of necessity, spokeswoman Anne P. Dalton said.
The commission’s comments on the review say the town Planning Board accepted a draft environmental impact statement that is incomplete and “does not address any topic in sufficient detail.”
An impact statement is a collection of studies that must be done before a project can be approved. Its purpose is to identify any adverse effects a project may have. A project can be turned down if its effects cannot be mitigated.
“The ‘DEIS’ document is, in effect, the functional equivalent of a draft scoping statement indicating many studies to be performed at a later date,” the PSC said. “The ‘DEIS’ should be reissued with a significant amount of additional supplemental information for public consideration and comment.”
The commission recommends that the Planning Board restart the environmental review process and begin with a scoping document. In January, St. Lawrence Wind chose to forgo the optional scoping stage, which identifies what studies need to be done. Planning Board Chairman Richard I. Edsall did not return a call for comment.
PSC is not the only entry to have expressed concern that studies for the St. Lawerence Wind Farm’s environmental review are incomplete. The state Depertment of Environmental Conservation has suggested more studies since March. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has made extensive comments on the project.
The PSC identified several concerns with the review, including:
A 75-foot “setback from adjacent property lines,” which the PSC said would be the smallest setback in the state.
Failure to assess the impact on Route 12E as a Seaway Trail Scenic Byway.
The proximity of proposed turbines to historical buildings.
The unidentified location of a 9-mile overhead transmission line.
Lack of cumulative study concerning the wind projects in the area.
Incomplete migratory bird and wedand studies.
Urban C. Hirschey, chairman of the Wind Power Ethics Group, which opposes much of the wind farm plan, declined to comment on the PSC’s statement.
St. Lawrence Wind Farm project manager Todd R. Hopper was not discouraged by the commission’s response. Taking the advice of experts, he said, is part of the environmental review process.
Mr. Hopper said he doesn’t believe the environmental review process for the project has been rushed.
“We always said we are going to do these studies,” he said. “How are we rushing?”
Mr. Hopper said there are several studies, including wetland studies, that simply could not be done in the late fall when the company filed its application.
He said several of the PSC’s concerns have been addressed in the list of requirements the Planning Board gave the company.
Mr. Hopper said the company voluntarily will abide by setbacks requested by the Planning Board, which require turbines to be 1,000 feet from nonpartici-pating property lines.
The Planning Board also requested visual impact studies from the St. Lawrence River, which Mr. Hopper said he believes would address issues with the byway. The commission recommends studying several different views along the byway of the project area itself. Mr. Hopper said the company plans to do an analysis of how turbines will affect the view from these areas.
He said the company has started but not completed its study on how turbines would affect historic properties.
The Planning Board also instructed the company to work with Cape Vincent Wind Farm, which is proposed to cross Cape Vincent and Lyme town lines, on mapping a single transmission line.
Mr. Hopper said the PSC’s request for a study into the cumulative impacts of surrounding wind farms is “standard.”
“The issue with that is we cannot do that without a final project layout,” Mr. Hopper said. “How would it be fair to include a project that doesn’t exist?”
Plans for the Cape Vincent Wind Farm have not been released. Mr. Hopper said he has not seen a final layout for the Wolfe Island Wind project, which would be built on the Canadian island in Lake Ontario just off Cape Vincent.
He acknowledged that several studies in the company’s environmental review are incomplete, but said he does not regret submitting me review ahead of time.
“People were saying they wanted this information filed,” he said. “Everyone was asking us about ‘doing this behind our backs.’ What if we were sitting in this office with no maps and doing all these studies? What would people think we were doing?”
By Kelly Vadney
Watertown Daily Times
21 July 2007
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