NORTH CREEK – Two Adirondack-based environmental groups have come out against the installation of windmills atop Gore Mountain.
The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council say their reasons for opposing the windmills range from aesthetic concerns to setting a poor precedent.
But their resistance appears to be paradoxical, said James McAndrew, project manager for the Barton Group’s proposed 10-turbine wind farm.
“As compared to the mainstream, big-picture environmental organizations, it should be remembered that the narrow regional focus of these groups includes quality-of-life issues important to their particular membership group that are often very human-centered rather than strictly environmental issues,” McAndrew said. “The trees, the deer, the birds care not if they see a wind turbine.”
Environmental groups say an Adirondack mountaintop is not an appropriate place for industrial-sized windmills and that they would destroy the park’s natural beauty. Opposition groups also have concerns about impacts on wildlife that would come into contact with the turbines’ rotating blades.
The Barton Group in 2005 announced plans for 10 turbines on 1,700 acres it owns on the north side of Gore Mountain. The company is currently collecting weather data, and will study how birds and bats occupy the area before making final applications for permits.
David Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, and John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council, said they are waiting for the Barton Group to submit a complete application to the Adirondack Park Agency before making more specific comments on the project.
The Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks is also waiting to see specifics before taking a position, said Michael Washburn, the North Creek-based organization’s executive director.
“Like anything else in the park, we’ll be watching,” Washburn said.
Greenpeace USA and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Organization, based in Poughkeepsie, have endorsed the project.
“It is our belief that any environmental impacts caused by installing these wind turbines will be minor, especially when compared to the truly profound impacts of global warming on ecosystems across the globe,” Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando said in a letter supporting the project.
Passacantando added that his group would withdraw support if review of the project “exposes significant threats to wildlife.”
Gibson said his group’s decision to initially oppose the project was difficult. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks has advocated for the interests of the Adirondacks for more than a century and looked to long-standing values it’s held to base its opposition.
“It depends on what they submit, but we would oppose it if the majority of the towers are still 400 feet tall and on ridge lines,” Gibson said.
The beauty and aesthetic appeal of the park, which is recognized around the world, would be compromised, he added.
Gibson called for the state and federal governments to site areas of the country where industrial-sized wind farms are appropriate.
The association is not against wind power, but is against proposals where negative impacts of a project outweigh the contributions it would make to a community.
Ten turbines at the site could produce enough power for 10,000 to 12,000 homes.
The Adirondack Council embraces wind power in the mix of renewable energy sources to lower carbon emissions.
“We don’t believe a mountain top is appropriate,” Sheehan said.
The ecological damage would be enormous to the mountainside, he said. Construction and moving the turbine’s blades up a mountain would take a large toll on mountains where streams ultimately flow into the Hudson River.
One of the council’s biggest concerns is the impact on birds, in particular Bicknell’s thrush, and bats that would fly into the path of the blades. There are prototype windmills with a vertical axle design that have a lower profile compared to standard turbines that may be more appropriate, Sheehan said.
The arguments are not a “Not In My Back Yard,” or NIMBY, statements, they said. More than half of the 6 million acre park is for the public.
“It’s everybody’s back yard, that’s what concerns us,” Sheehan said. “It is not in character of the community.”
Sheehan advocated to upgrade old public buildings around the park to cut down energy costs instead of investing money in the Barton Mines project.
Older town halls, libraries and other public spaces are often poorly insulated, and have inefficient cooling and heating systems.
“For example, the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek is a masterpiece,” Sheehan said. “If they duplicate that across the park, we would be thrilled.”
Such an initiative would create jobs park residents could do. A wind farm would require workers from outside the area, Sheehan said.
By Charles Fiegl
20 February 2008
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