In 2005, Tyrone Borough Forester, Paul Noll, of Noll’s Forestry Services, Inc. wrote the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Plan based on the 3,800 acre borough watershed property. Recently, Noll issued a recommendation/suggestion summary report on the property concerning the possible Gamesa Energy USA wind farm installation and the issues that need to be addressed at the watershed property as a whole.
Noll broke down the 3,800 acre property in numbered “stands”, meaning a stand pertains to a section of acreage that varies by each stand (ex. Stand #1 consists of 315 acres). Each stand report details its location, number of acres, species of timber, age, size, soils, stocking, quality, understory, ground cover, vines, history, management objectives and management recommendations.
In Noll’s recent report, he stated that he would be “in favor of having the wind towers erected on the watershed property because you will be disturbing only a small area of the property, but the money you receive from the towers can be used to improve other areas of the watershed property.”
If the leasing of the land and wind farm installation is voted in by borough council, there is a monetary gain for the borough, paid by Gamesa, that peaks at $6,000 per wind mill per year during the Operation Period, or three percent of the gross annual electricity revenue, whichever is greater. It is a guaranteed minimum of $60,000 to $90,000 per year.
Gamesa proposes to install 10-15 wind mills on the Ice Mountain property that has a contract the borough would have to hold for 29 years and 11 months.
This decision to install the wind farm on Ice Mountain has become a debate within the Tyrone community and of course, borough council. It is a decision of clean energy, environmental effects, and also monetary gain.
Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin feels that the borough has to look at the decision in terms of money, but also look at it environmentally and as innovation. He said, “The state is pushing wind mill development right now, but in 10 years wind mills could be obsolete, or they may not be.”
“Wind mills help but are not the ultimate answer, there has to be other options,” said Kilmartin. “Innovation will increase and has to come up with something more efficient in the coming years, perhaps something different, I just don’t know what that might be.”
Noll stated that the watershed property has many issues that need to be addressed and are all costly, which the monies gained by wind farm installation could off-set the costs of these issues. There is extensive gypsy moth damage, invasive plant species, high quantity of deer that could require deer fencing, poor regeneration, and poor soils.
Another concern is the effect erosion may be having on the quality of the water in the streams and reservoir. Noll’s report said at this time most of the erosion is occurring in the very northern area of the property; therefore, it is not directly affecting the quality of water in the reservoir.
“There is some erosion on Hoover Road and along the Bell Telephone line where it leaves Hoover Road. These erosion areas could have bank shale brought in to build broad-based dips so the phone line wouldn’t be disturbed,” reported Noll. “Gamesa has made some repairs to the roads when the test towers were installed. This area still needs some work to stop erosion and they would need graded off and either broad based dips or water bars put in place.”
If Gamesa erects the wind mills, the company is under strict government regulations to keep erosion from happening. Current erosion problems on the roads Gamesa will use will be their responsibility.
Josh Framel, Gamesa project developer, stated, “We have to cooperate and work with the Blair County Conservation District and PA Department of Environmental Protection in creating erosion and sediment control plans, and have them approved by them.”
Noll also pointed out that Gamesa will have less roads to build because there is already a main road as well as a Bell Telephone line (not being used) running along side it, which run half way around the area the wind mills are to be erected.
Framel said only two to two and a half miles of additional road would probably need to be built.
Noll added in his report, “If Gamesa does not erect towers in this area the cost to correct the erosion would have to be bid out. At this time I do not have a good estimate of costs for grading with a bulldozer or to bring in fill to make broad based dips. These costs would need to be determined when the work is scheduled to be completed. It would definitely be in the thousands of dollars to have erosion control work done.”
Noll said that he doesn’t know of any negative environmental effects the wind farm installation would have on the watershed property based on his report and information gathered.
“I’m for it because the money gained is going back into the woods,” said Noll.
Some costs Noll stated in his report that are solely estimates compared with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and its experiencing in dealing with such issues include: herbicide spraying per acre would be from $130 to $170, deer fencing could cost from $400 to $500 an acre depending on the site, tree planting could cost any where from $0.35 to $0.50 per seedling when bought in large quantities, grapevine cutting, with some left for the wildlife, could cost from $30 to $100 per acre, and timber stand improvement is recommended for five stands on approximately 200 acres, and a cost was not available for that.
Noll added that the total acres mentioned for site preparation (spraying and fencing) is 2,697 acres. The total acres mentioned for timber stand improvement is 281 acres. The total acres mentioned for grapevine cutting is 2,251 acres.
“These acres sound high but not all of the acres in each of the stands would need site preparation, timber stand improvement, deer fencing, and grapevine cutting,” said Noll. “Some of the areas are well stocked and others are not. We would not be completing work on all of these acres because of the rugged terrain and steepness of slopes.”
According to Noll’s report, depending on the amount of acres managed each year, the work discussed in his plan would probably take a lot longer than one 10-year management period. The number of acres managed each year could be higher or lower, so the cost could be higher or lower than his estimates.
Noll suggests starting with 35 to 50 acre areas would scatter the improvements throughout the watershed so changing the looks of large areas of the watershed at one time would not happen.
“This way you will be able to see how well the regeneration works and how many problems will occur with invasive species and deer browsing. It is very possible that with the deer problem today that fencing will have to be done,” said Noll.
Addressing these problems would also be in the thousands of dollars, but Noll did say that “for each of the fencing, tree tube cost, tree planting, and site preparation the borough can apply for Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP) funds”.
Kilmartin said that the borough will have to address these issues concerning the watershed property, and added, “Whether the money comes from wind mill development, seeking grants to off-set costs, or both, remains to be seen.”
Gamesa will be holding a public open house on Wednesday, December 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tyrone Senior Center for the community to attend for discussion and questions about the proposed wind farm on Ice Mountain.
By Kris Yaniello
27 November 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding