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Legislators discuss wind power, water levels

OSWEGO – Oswego County is a step closer to officially denouncing offshore wind farms and plans to change the way water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are regulated.

The county Legislature’s Economic Development and Planning Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to send resolutions to the full Legislature against offshore wind farms and altering water levels on the two local bodies of water.

While the issue of offshore wind farms generated just a few minutes of condemnation from legislators – mostly over environmental concerns and the fact that there is no potential to collect sales tax – discussion over water levels was lengthier.

The International Joint Commission is an independent organization that controls projects that affect the level and flow of boundary waters between Canada and the United States. Since the 1960s, it has regulated water levels on Lake Ontario using the Moses-Saunders Power Dam. The commission currently moderates extreme high and low water levels.

Its new proposed water regulation plan, known as BV7, would continue to moderate extreme water levels, but would allow for more natural water levels and flow patterns and would produce significant environmental changes, according to its website. It would also slightly increase the average water level in the lake and river.

Coastal property owners charge that such a change would cause greater erosion problems and would destroy many pieces of shoreline property.

Legislators brought up multiple issues with the proposed plan, including how increased water levels on Lake Ontario would affect the port of Oswego and recreation.

“I think it’s something we should be concerned about,” Legislator Morris Sorbello, R- Granby, said.

Legislators also expressed concern about how the changes would impact silt levels at the mouth of the Oswego River and in the port, and whether increased water levels would mean damage for shorefront property owners.

Director of Community Development, Tourism and Planning David Turner said that since the Army Corps of Engineers had listed the Oswego breakwall as a failed structure and that there was no money budgeted for repairs, increased lake levels could affect the breakwall in the future.
Both resolutions will be brought to the floor for debate by the full Legislature at its May meeting.