DEC, town board vie for lead agency
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The town of Hounsfield Planning Board wants to be the lead agency for the Galloo Island Wind Project. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation also wants that authority.
The town is sending a letter to the department’s commissioner, Alexander B. “Pete” Grannis petitioning for the Planning Board to be recognized as lead agency.
“We’re not going to roll over and die,” Hounsfield Supervisor Jean H. Derouin said. The town is concerned not that DEC authority would halt the project altogether, but that the department’s lead would “delay it and delay it and delay it,” Mr. Derouin said.
On Dec 4, the Hounsfield Planning Board received an application from Upstate New York Power. The next day, the town sent the environmental assessment form to all involved state agencies and a letter indicating the board’s wish to be lead agency for the state environmental quality review process.
On Dec. 27, town officials learned DEC would object to the Planning Board acting as lead agency. The next day, town officials had a conference call with DEC and Public Service Commission officials, offering their rationale for being lead agency.
On Jan. 3, town officials sent letters to local elected officials asking for their support in Hounsfield’s attempt to be lead agency. The next step is for town officials to send a petition to the commissioner. Town Attorney Dennis G. Whelpley is completing the letter, Mr. Derouin said.
During the Dec. 28 conference call, DEC officials argued that the department should be the lead agency because there are fewer local effects that require Planning Board involvement. The officials said there is no local infrastructure involved and no neighbors.
Mr. Whelpley countered these arguments in the Dec. 28 conference call by saying the developer of the wind project will not own the entire island and will have neighbors. There are also several islands from which the turbines will be visible.
Because the project would be offshore, DEC officials said the project would attract attention from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Great Lakes Commission and other international organizations in the Great Lakes region, in addition to the standard state agencies.
In a letter to Kathy M. Snyder, chairwoman of the Planning Board, Jack A. Nasca, chief of DEC’s energy projects and management division of environmental permits, wrote “the anticipated impacts of the action being considered are primarily of statewide and/or regional significance as opposed to local significance.”
Mr. Nasca cited several examples of state or regional issues: The potential disturbance of fish spawning by the underwater transmission line form the island to the mainland, the population of the threatened upland sandipier birds on Galloo Island, and the proximity to threatened common terns on Little Galloo Island.
In the Jan. 3 Letter to elected officials, town officials wrote that only one additional permit will be required for the project – a dock permit, given by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They also wrote that planning boards have more latitude in setting up conditions for plan approval than DEC would. Planning boards or town councils are the lead agencies in most, if not all, wind projects in New York.
By Nancy Madsen
Times Staff Writer
Watertown Daily Times
20 January 2008
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