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Sites of 95 wind turbines are unveiled

BP Alternative Energy revealed the setting of 95 turbines for the Cape Vincent Wind Farm on Wednesday with a room full of displays, two large maps and a speaker who heartily endorsed wind power.

The evening at Cape Vincent Recreation Park on South James Street drew more than 100 people and lasted just over three hours, with the majority of that time devoted to conversations between residents and BP representatives.

The session seemed to change few minds; a map of the proposed turbines was met with skepticism by wind power critics and appreciation by those who have endorsed the Cape Vincent project.

The proposed turbines, overlayed on a U.S. Geological Survey map with outdated road names, were spread around the town along red power lines. Their locations were bounded on the southeast by the Lyme town line, in the northwest by wetlands and elsewhere by a proximity to Lake Ontario and other waterways.

“I live almost in the center of the project,” said Beth A. White, president of Voters For Wind. Mrs. White, one of 68 landowners who have agreed to have wind turbines on their land, pointed to the four dots spread across her 500 acres of farmland along Rosiere Road.

“I’d like to have more, but I’m happy to have four,” she said. “I love the way they look.”

Stephen J. and Diane M. Rutigliano, Three Mile Bay, had a far different reaction after examining the map and counting how many of the 95 turbines they would be able to see from their house.

“What do I think of the layout? I think it’s disgusting,” Mrs. Rutigliano said. “I’m going to be looking right into them. Am I happy? No. I would like to spit nickels.”

While the map is preliminary, BP project manager James H. Madden said, it represents a large move forward in the project process.

“We’ve had open houses before. It’s a pretty big step to have an array plan,” he said. “It allows us to move forward and complete the permitting process.”

BP still has a significant amount of work to do before Cape Vincent residents can expect to see GE 1.5-megawatt turbines on their land.

The company plans to submit the project’s final environmental impact statement by the end of the year and has said construction could begin in fall 2009.

Next week, a team of six to eight people will begin marking wetland boundaries, examining geological and ecological characteristics of sites where the turbines would be located, conducting biological assessments and performing archeological tests.

The geological study, in particular, will become part of a general stormwater State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit application to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Project manager Philip M. Ponebshek said the company already has completed preliminary noise modeling studies, to identify setbacks for turbines, and has compiled two years of data on the migratory patterns of birds and bats.

“We have a goal, even under the most quiet noise conditions in winter, to be at no more than six decibels above background levels,” he said.

Although Mr. Ponebshek and other BP representatives repeatedly said that noise levels would be kept to a minimum and surrounding property values would not be affected by the turbines, residents such as Paul L. Docteur were not convinced.

“I think there’s room for turbines in the world, but we have quite a unique area here and we need to respect the waterfront and the tourist trade,” he said.

“I’m afraid property values are going to be influenced. Who knows? If they’re too close and too noisy, it could have a big impact.”

Seasonal resident Joyce F. Miles agreed that the proposed turbines appeared too close to the waterfront and to her house on Valley Road.

“I acknowledge we need to have some alternative energy,” she said. “I’m just the classic ‘not in my backyard.'”

In an effort to change the minds of people such as Ms. Miles, Dereth B. Glance, program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, gave a presentation on the benefits of wind power.

Ms. Glance, whose presentation was funded by her organization and not by BP, went on to knock down concerns about property values, noise levels, wind as a reliable energy source and the impact to birds and bats.

She said that in an era of environmental concerns, rising electricity prices and rising demand, wind offers a good source of renewable energy,

“We love our electricity in the United States. It’s all got to be generated from somewhere,” Ms. Glance said. “Wind is not the silver bullet, but it is part of the solution.”

Robert A. Gauthier, Cape Vincent, said his own view of the turbines boils down to whether having them on his land would help him pay his property taxes. On Wednesday, Mr. Gauthier discovered that BP had designated three turbines for his 300-acre farm.

“This windmill deal is something we all fell into. Nobody asked for it,” he said. “People who are so dead set against it would do the same thing it they owned enough land.”

By Rachael Hanley
Times Staff Writer

Watertown Daily Times

31 July 2008