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Wind power blows up debate among legislators

OSWEGO, NY – The issue of wind power wafted back on the floor of the Oswego County Legislature Thursday evening.

The state and the federal governments are pushing development of offshore wind power, County Administrator Phil Church noted.

He told the legislators he was trying to get more information on the situation in light of the fact the legislature has already passed a resolution in opposition to this.

A couple years ago, the New York Power Authority tried to develop a wind farm in Lake Ontario’s shallow waters near the Oswego County shoreline.

Church said he will bring what he learns to the next meeting of the county’s Economic Development and Planning Committee.

Part of the concern, he pointed out, is that the plan removes authority from the local municipalities. The federal agreement says local municipalities must have a say, he added.

“So we’re trying to find out more information for you,” he said.

Along with that, he said, the International Joint Commission is proposing a lake level plan. He will bring more information on that to the committee as well.

Legislator Art Ospelt pointed out that he wasn’t against windmills “any place in the county.”

“I was as far as the lake. But I’m not opposed them in the county, away from the lake,” he said.

Legislator Mike Kunzwiler agreed.

The legislature has to be careful about how it words a resolution in opposition to a wind farm in Lake Ontario so that it isn’t misconstrued as total opposition to wind power, he explained.

“I am opposed to ‘industrial wind,’ which is large scale complexes of wind turbines. My town has a wind turbine helping to pump water … so I support it on a small level,” Legislator Shawn Doyle pointed out.

“I just want to point out that we weren’t all opposed to offshore wind power,” said Legislator Jake Mulcahey.

In March of 2010, the county legislature passed a resolution opposing the New York Power Authority’s proposal to develop a Lake Ontario-based wind farm in Oswego County.

Legislators Mulcahey, Kunzwiler, Doug Malone and Amy Tressider voted against the resolution.

“I realize that,” Ospelt replied. “I meant that it was voted down by a majority.”

“You all remember, those of us that were here at that time, the Public Service Commission just told us they were going to start putting out bids. They just came in, gave us a presentation at City Hall in Oswego. They were going to go all the way around Mexico Point,” Legislator Morris Sorbello said.

People were opposed to it for a number of reasons, including its detrimental impact on the tourism and fishing industries in the county, he added.

“That was part of the problem. They already drew up the plan and were ready to submit them without any input from this legislature,” he continued.

Mulcahey pointed out that “what we saw, the paperwork, was a proposal. It was just that, it was recommended siteing, potential siteing, possible siteing. I just want to point that out.”

“I just want you to think about this,” Ospelt said, adding the issue will likely wind up back on the floor of the legislature.

For a really enlightened debate on this topic, Legislator Jack Proud told his fellow legislators to attend the Student Government Day activities (next month) “when two superbly prepared teams of seventh graders from throughout Oswego County will be debating the pros and cons of wind power.”