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Avoid our forested ridgetops  

The industrial wind plant proposed on Ice Mountain near Tyrone is a bad idea for the following reasons:

* The Ice Mountain area is designated as a landscape conservation area and county natural heritage area of exceptional significance in the Blair County Natural Heritage Inventory.

Ice Mountain represents a large block of unfragmented, forest habitat important to species, such as the bobcat, the fisher, the black-throated blue warbler, the black-throated green warbler, the scarlet tanager and the wood thrush.

The network of roads, turbine clearings, transmission line corridors and clearings for substations and accessory buildings would result in extensive fragmentation of this forested area.

* The Blair County Comprehensive Plan designates the area as a greenway, where the preservation of the natural landscape should be given first priority. The areawide comprehensive plan states: ‘‘The ridge tops in Blair County are one of its defining characteristics. … Development along ridge tops should be discouraged so that their imposing beauty is preserved. Ridge lines that should be conserved are the Allegheny Front and Dunning, Short, Loop, Lock, Brush, Bald Eagle, Canoe and Tussey mountains.’’ A wind farm on Ice Mountain would dominate the landscape. It is hard to imagine a more shocking and obtrusive feature than dozens of 400-foot tall towers with 140-foot long whirling blades.

* The Pennsylvania Biological Survey’s Ornithological Technical Committee identifies Ice Mountain as part of the Allegheny Front important bird area. During migration, about 2 million birds pass over the Allegheny Front each night. In summer, Ice Mountain is home to about 100 species of breeding birds, most of which are dependent upon large tracts of unbroken forest.

* The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidance document states that wind energy projects should avoid fragmenting large, contiguous tracts of wildlife habitat such as exists on Ice Mountain.

* The Ice Mountain site is part of a protective forested buffer around the Tyrone Reservoirs, which supply water to area customers. Turbines contain large amounts of oil in their 60-ton nacelles, the center point of the rotating assembly. Turbines will be vulnerable to lightning strikes, resulting in a high risk of fire in the forested reservoir watershed.

The turbines would require the construction of many miles of new roads, resulting in increased runoff and sedimentation. Each turbine also requires the clearing and grading of several acres surrounding it including roads for construction and maintenance.

Despite this, developers have targeted Ice Mountain for an industrial wind plant. Their action either ignores or dismisses the area’s long-standing designations, which corroborate Ice Mountain’s unique status and exceptional conservation value.

The developers’ effort also disregards the public approval of Ice Mountain as a greenway – essential for the preservation of our quality of life in Blair County.

Juniata Valley Audubon seeks a balanced approach to energy production. It is not unreasonable to recommend that lands designated to have exceptional conservation value be off-limits to industrial wind energy development.

Stan Kotala

President, Juniata Valley Audubon

Altoona

Altoona Mirror

20 January 2008

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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