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Three lobby county for wind turbine law  

Vexed by inconsistent wind turbine regulations among towns, three Jefferson County residents asked legislators Tuesday to establish county-wide zoning laws for industrial turbines.

There’s just one problem. The county has no authority to impose zoning laws on its municipalities.

The proposal was made by Urban C. Hirschey, Cape Vincent, chairman of the Wind Power Ethics Group; Paul E. Carr, Lyme, a Cornell University engineering professor; and Gerard C. LeTendre, Cape Vincent, a biologist and birder.

Hirschey explained the group’s concerns about turbine size, its power generation, expense and impacts on the landscape.

LeTendre expressed concern that initial studies have dramatically underestimated how many birds and bats will fly into turbines erected in Cape Vincent, Clayton and Lyme. Maple Ridge, a 50 turbine farm in the Tug Hill Plateau, was responsible for 123 bird and 326 bat deaths between July and November 2006.

“Cape Vincent is a much more sensitive area than Tug Hill,” said LeTendre, who estimated deaths would be much higher in the area he called “the eastern flyway.”

Carr said towns were setting noise regulations in zoning laws that were not stringent enough. The engineer advocated for regulations that prohibited turbines from being more than 5 decibels louder than an area’s ambient sound.

Carr said Cape Vincent’s proposed zoning law pegs ambient sound at around 45 decibels; he believes it is closer to 30 decibels. He said the predicted turbine noise levels in Cape Vincent is 48.3 decibels, which would be “very noticeable” in comparison to levels today.

Carr said more stringent noise regulations would likely reduce the size of wind farms. He also advocated more stringent setbacks to protect property owners who do not site turbines on their property.

“They made a very good case to say that we should step up and perhaps do something, but I really don’t see that there’s anything we can do except make suggestions,” said Legislator Michael W. Behling, Planning and Development chairman.

Donald R. Canfield, county planning director, said his department will continue to provide assistance in helping municipalities draft zoning laws for turbines. Legislators inquired if the county could create a suggested zoning law that could be distributed to towns, but Canfield did not think it was appropriate.

“There are different geographic features and different aspects of the community so it’s hard to say that one model local law is the perfect law that applies to each individual community,” he said. “That’s why our approach has been case by case.”

Publication: Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, NY)

Publication Date: 09/19/2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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