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Wind farm project gets scaled down again

The Jordanville Wind project recently took another hit, but it also caught a second wind.

Members of the Warren and Stark town boards voted not to appeal a court ruling that deemed the project’s environmental studies null and void, but the wind developers intend to soon present plans and a timetable for completing a smaller version of the project – with 40 wind turbines, officials in the towns said Thursday.

Stark town Supervisor Richard Bronner said he feels disappointed because the larger project could have better helped the local economy while producing more clean energy than the new project will.

“The impact is no where near as significant as the 68-turbine project was,” Bronner said. “It’s not to say it won’t be beneficial to the area – because it will be.”

The original plan for a 68-turbine, 136-megawatt project in southern Herkimer County took its first major hit in August 2007, when the state Public Service Commission accepted a scaled-down version of the project – with 19 fewer turbines – to avoid adverse environmental impacts on the Glimmerglass Historic District.

Then in December 2007, state Supreme Court Justice Donald Greenwood of Onondaga County ruled the Warren Town Board failed to look closely enough at the project’s potential impact, and that the Warren and Stark town boards acted in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law and Freedom of Information Law.

Greenwood awarded attorney’s fees to the group of residents who brought the lawsuit.

The decision to drop the appeals – despite a strong disagreement with the court ruling – was made because town officials didn’t know how long the process would carry on and how much it would cost taxpayers, Bronner said.

Appeals from developer Jordanville Wind of Iberdrola Renewable Energy USA also were not completed. Skip Brennan, the Iberdrola New York state director of development, declined to comment Thursday.

Winds of change

The new, 40-turbine, 80-megawatt project would be placed in relatively the same areas as the original project, town officials said.

Stark resident Steve Reichenbach, one of the people who filed the lawsuit against the towns, said the new plan looks like it still will impact the Holy Trinity Monastery, some of the petitioners, views from Otsego Lake and the environment.

“The new, downsized project does not take into account any of our previous concerns – when it potentially could,” he said.

Warren town Councilman Les Miller said necessary studies will be conducted as a supplement to impact studies already completed. He said he will then have to evaluate the impact.

Bronner said officials thought they did things the right way the first time through, but they will work to correct any mistakes that were made.

“Things just didn’t go our way this time,” he said. “Hopefully, they will next time.”

By Bryon Ackerman

The Observer-Dispatch

19 June 2008