OSWEGO – A discussion regarding the prospect of a wind turbine farm located off the shores of Lake Ontario again found its way onto the floor of the Oswego County Legislature during the body’s full meeting Thursday night.
Oswego County Administrator Phil Church brought the topic up during the meeting, noting that New York is among the five Great Lakes states that recently reached a deal with the Obama administration to streamline the development of offshore wind farms.
Church said legislators in Jefferson County have already moved to oppose the agreement. The administrator added that more information has been requested to determine what steps the Oswego County Legislature should take regarding the agreement with the federal government.
The topic comes up months after the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) decision to scrap plans to build a wind turbine farm in either Lake Ontario or Lake Erie. That project was initially pitched for Lake Ontario waters in Oswego County in late 2009. It was a hot topic among the local legislative body that, much like several other counties along the shores of the two Great Lakes, passed a resolution to oppose the project.
NYPA officials said that the offshore wind project would have generated between 120 and 500 megawatts of power through the turbines’ operation. NYPA was looking to place the wind turbines in water levels that are 150 feet or less, a characteristic of Mexico Bay.
The agency stated that the project would help offset emissions of air pollutants and would also produce short- and long-term jobs in engineering, infrastructure, transmission interconnection, manufacturing of wind components, operations and maintenance. However, those opposing the project suggested that the offshore wind turbine farm would damage the view of the lake, tourism, property values and wildlife, and would not lead to ample job creation as the NYPA suggested.
During Thursday’s meeting, the Legislature reflected on the NYPA’s plans for an offshore wind farm, and rehashed conflicting stances on the project.
Legislator Arthur Ospelt, R-Schroeppel, noted that he opposed the placement of a wind turbine farm in Lake Ontario, but stressed that he does not oppose wind farms based on land. It was a sentiment that Legislator Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski, said he agreed with, adding that he opposes large-scale industrial wind farms.
“I would support it on a small level,” Doyle said.
Legislator Jake Mulcahey, D-Oswego, reminded his colleagues that not every member of the Legislature agreed with the decision that was reached to reject the NYPA’s proposal.
“I just want to point out that we were not all opposed to wind power in Lake Ontario,” he said.
Mulcahey has stated more than once that he believes not enough information had been gathered prior to the Legislature taking a stance on the proposal, and reiterated that point again during Thursday’s meeting. Legislator Doug Malone, D-Oswego Town, concurred with his party member, adding that the county should not make that same mistake moving forward with possible wind farms.
“We didn’t have any information before,” Malone said. “We were just handed a resolution to vote on. But we need information before we make a decision. Is it good or bad? I have no idea.”
Legislator Morris Sorbello, R-Granby, said the Legislature did not have any time to reflect and study the NYPA’s plans, as the agency rushed through the details of the project, forcing the Legislature to push to establish a resolution opposing the project.
“They just came in, gave us a presentation in the City Hall in Oswego,” the legislator said. “People were just trying to understand it at that time. But they already had drawn up plans and were ready to submit them without any input from this Legislature.”
Mulcahey refuted Sorbello’s comment, again suggesting that the Legislature was too quick to say “no.”
“I remember talking about this issue until I was blue in the face, and I don’t want to get into a debate on the floor about this right now, but I would like to point out that what we saw in the paperwork was a proposal,” Mulcahey said. “It was just that. It was recommended siting, potential siting, possible siting, that was it.”
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