WHEATFIELD – The belief that wind turbines would spoil the view from the Lake Ontario shore is the most often-cited reason for opposing the New York Power Authority’s proposed wind power project, according to Niagara County Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson.
He’s keeping track of public opinion for the special committee the Legislature set up July 27 to try to determine the facts about the proposal to erect as many as 166 wind turbines, each 420 feet high, in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie or both.
At the first committee meeting, held Thursday in the Industrial Development Agency offices in Wheatfield, Godfrey reported that of the first 28 e-mails he received since the committee was announced, only one was in favor of the project.
Other e-mails generally cited more than one reason to oppose the project. But the thought of giant windmills off shore was cited most often.
“Myths are going to get us bogged down,” said Legislator Renae Kimble, D-Niagara Falls, a wind power supporter. “They’re not going to build any wind farms off Fort Niagara. It’s not going to happen.”
Asked how she knows that, Kimble said she had no official information, but she thought it was unrealistic to place the wind farm at the mouth of the Niagara River.
Official information is something that has been lacking. Legislature Chairman William L. Ross wrote a letter July 30 to Power Authority Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel, warning him that the Legislature will rescind its previous resolutions supporting the wind project unless Kessel supplies some helpful facts.
Ross said Kessel hasn’t replied to the letter. Kessel has said the authority won’t reveal anything about any of the five bids it received in June, including whether any of them are even interested in the Niagara County shoreline.
In the letter, Ross took credit for using the creation of the special committee to prevent a vote on a resolution of opposition to the project. Niagara is the only lakeshore county on record as supporting the plan; four others say they’re opposed.
“I need information on some specifics in economic development, such as: How many Niagara County residents would get jobs? How many Niagara County residents would be used in maintenance and operation? What type of spin-off industries could occur because of this wind farm project?” Ross asked in the letter.
He continued, “The above information is difficult to pinpoint, but I need this kind of help in order to provide counter-information for the ad hoc committee meetings and save these support resolutions.”
Kimble pointed to the scores of businesses who attended the authority’s “Get Listed” events for companies interested in wind-related work.
Godfrey said, “That would lead me to believe those companies did some sort of research.”
The only supportive e-mail he has received at firstname.lastname@example.org came from a Lockport business owner who is a potential vendor to the project.
Thirteen e-mails raised the lakefront view as a reason to be against the plan; 12 cited the lack of jobs and the lack of savings on electric rates.
Eleven claimed the project would reduce property values; 10 said the turbines wouldn’t be manufactured here; nine said recreational boating and yachting would suffer; eight said the project is too expensive; seven said it would hurt the environment; five said they just don’t trust the Power Authority; and four said it would harm fishing.
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