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DOH head favors town  

GALLOO ISLAND: Hounsfield board still vying for lead agency

It’s DOH vs. DEC.

Department of Health District Director Thomas E. Boxberger has sent a letter to Department of Environmental Conservation Alexander B. “Pete” Grannis in support of the Hounsfield Planning Board acting as lead agency for Galloo Island Wind Farm state environmental quality review process.

The conservation department asked in December to act as lead agency instead of the Planning Board. DEC’s primary reason is that, it says, the offshore project may have statewide or regional effects, including those on bird and fish populations.

But town officials say that the Planning Board has the greatest control over environmental effects, as it approves each part of temporary and permanent construction. The Health Department has weighed in, agreeing with the town.

“Further review indicates numerous unique concerns that need to be addressed in the environmental review process that, in our opinion, can be best addressed by the town Planning Board,” Mr. Boxberger wrote.

Those concerns include:

# A public water supply for workers and employees during construction and operation.

# Houses and residential structures for construction workers and employees.

# Food service facilities to serve the inhabitants.

# Transportation measures for employees and materials.

# Emergency medical plans for transportation.

# Health care and infirmary services on the island.

# Education concerns for families of employees.

# Fire protection and emergency management issues.

Mr. Boxberger wrote that the Planning Board would, as usual, require the developer to obtain permits from DOH for a water system, residential structures, food service facilities and possibly health care services.

The Planning Board “has a unique opportunity to consider all issues of the SEQR process, not just those that are DOH areas of concern,” he wrote.

In support of those arguments, Upstate NY Power Corp – the company developing the project – has submitted plans for temporary residential, food service and health care structures to support about 250 workers during construction of the wind project.

The Town Council showed those plans to the audience at Wednesday’s council meeting. “It’s a community,” Supervisor Jean H. Derouin said. “There is no other agency with as broad jurisdiction as the Planning Board.”

Upstate NY Power has also sent a letter to Mr. Grannis in support of the town’s request.

In response, Jack A. Nasca, chief of DEC’s energy projects and management division of environmental permits, wrote that the structures would only be temporary.

“In fact, some of the structures may never be constructed as there are other options available to the developer to provide these types of temporary services,” he wrote in a March 6 letter to Commissioner Grannis. “However, the impacts from the loss of a unique habitat of regional importance and the potential for impact to resident and migratory bird and bat species of statewide importance will remain for the operational life of the project.”

In the letter, Mr. Nasca also wrote the “anticipated impacts of the action being considered are primarily of statewide and/or regional significance as opposed to local significance.”

For example, he cites the lack of permanent residents on the island and the island’s relative proximity to Henderson – six miles – as compared to Hounsfield – 12 miles.

He also points to the potential disturbance of fish spawning by the underwater transmission line and heavy boat traffic bringing people and material to the island. He writes that upland sandpipers, a state-listed threatened species, are known to nest on the island. Common terns, another state-listed threatened species, nest on nearby Little Galloo Island.

That island is listed as an Important Bird Area and Bird Conservation Area. Another nearby island, Stoney Island, is a Waterfowl Winter Concentration Area.

Although Galloo Island has not been surveyed for bird species, “So given the surrounding resources it is likely that survey work on Galloo Island will reveal other species of regional or statewide importance,” wrote Mr. Nasca.

Town Attorney Dennis G. Whelpley sent a response to the commissioner on Mr. Nasca’s letter this week. The commissioner will review the information and set a date for a decision.

By Nancy Madsen
Times Staff Writer

Watertown Daily Times

16 March 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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