The recent letter to the editor by Gamesa consultant, Mike Barton, attempted to show similarities between Gamesa’s Allegheny Ridge wind plant site to Shaffer Mountain, where Gamesa wants to build a massive three phase industrial wind facility.
Mr. Barton concludes that Gamesa has sited its Allegheny Ridge wind plant in a proper place so it must follow that Shaffer Mountain is a “proper place” as well. Comparing these two sites, Mr. Barton, is like comparing apples to oranges. Other that the fact that they are both mountainous areas, Allegheny Ridge and Shaffer Mountain are so dissimilar that such comparisons and conclusions cannot be made. It is the differences between the two sites that is the basis for the groundswell of grassroots opposition which has erupted against the Shaffer Mountain wind plant.
In a nutshell, almost none of the sensitive environmental issues that exist on Shaffer Mountain were present at the Allegheny Ridge project site.
There was never any threat of direct Exceptional Value stream impact at Allegheny Ridge. None. On Shaffer Mountain, Gamesa wants to build 18 miles of industrial gravel roads and transmission channels directly in the middle of the charge and tributary area of two Exceptional Value streams -Piney Run and Clear Shade Creek.
Tributary crossings, steep road gradients and fragile forest soils spell disaster for these two streams in the form of erosion, sedimentation and water quality degredation no matter how much “wildlife seed mix” you try to plant on the raped landscape.
Allegheny Ridge is not a bottleneck for annual raptor migrations. Shaffer Mountain, and specifically the area Gamesa is targeting for wind development, has the heaviest migration of threatened eastern golden eagles (maybe 1,000 remaining) in Eastern North America. This fact is documented by years of Audubon collected, peer reviewed data. Literally thousands of raptors use this area for feeding and migration each year. It is a true bottleneck for migration.
The Allegheny Ridge site did not have federally endangered Indiana bats. Shaffer Mountain has Indiana bat habitat with a well known Indiana bat hibernaculum seven miles south of the project site. Wind plants have killed thousands of bats in West Virginia and Meyersdale – two of the sites studied.
The Allegheny Ridge site has few, if any, remaining undisturbed upland wetlands. Shaffer Mountain has acres of untouched Exceptional Value upland wetlands that contain many rare and endangered plants. These wetlands also provide nursery waters for native brook trout that inhabit Piney and Clear Shade. This did not exist at Allegheny Ridge.
There has never been any coal mining on Shaffer Mountain as there has been in the Portage area and Allegheny Ridge. The Shaffer Mountain project area that Gamesa wants to destroy contains more than 22,000 mostly roadless acres of unfragmented high-quality habitat (mostly owned by a Philladelphia corporation) that has not been touched by mining. In 2006 the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Project designated the Piney Run and wetland area a Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Area of Exceptional Significance and suggested that immediate steps be taken to protect the area from development that could disrupt or degrade this biologically diverse intact ecosystem. Allegheny Ridge, cannot even begin to compare.
At Allegheny Ridge, there was not an alternative site for the wind development. On Shaffer Mountain there is a huge reclaimed strip cut less than one mile south of the proposed project site. It is the perfect place for such an industrial development. The land is already destroyed and will be forever worthless as wildlife habitat. And this land is owned by the same company that owns almost all of the land on Shaffer Mountain that Gamesa wants to destroy for its wind plant.
This site could be easily used for the wind plant. Just last week Gamesa competitor Freedom Wind Energy announced that they would be building a wind plant at the Rock Run ATV Recreation Area outside Patton. Rock Run is a reclaimed strip mine.
Comparing Allegheny Ridge to Shaffer Mountain is like comparing apples to oranges. And these differences are the reason Gamesa’s industrialization of this section of Shaffer Mountain will be stopped. It’s all about the siting. The siting of these industrial facilities, if not regulated soon, may well doom the ablility of industrial wind to reach its full potential. The people of the Commonwealth are not going to stand for the destruction of the last of our highest quality wild habitats, especially when we have hundreds of thousands of acres of reclaimed strip mines, with great wind, that have already been destroyed.
10 August 2007
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