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Nonprofits: localities should have say on turbines

CLAYTON – Municipalities should be able to decide for themselves, or at least have more say in, the outcome of wind project sitings, according to the leaders of area nonprofits.

The head of Save the River, meanwhile, said the group still advocates a moratorium on industrial wind development, which it proposed in 2010, until environmental impacts are assessed.

Thousand Islands Land Trust’s executive director, Jake R. Tibbles, said that while the land trust “supports the concept of renewable energy and strongly advocates energy efficiency and conservation activities,” it does not support the siting of large commercial wind turbines.

“The mission of TILT is to conserve the natural beauty, wildlife habitats and recreational opportunities of the Thousand Islands region; TILT is therefore opposed to the siting of industrial wind turbines within the view shed of the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries in the Thousand Islands region,” Mr. Tibbles said Wednesday.

In a recent letter to the state Public Service Commission, Mr. Tibbles asked the Article X siting board to “respect the wishes and concerns of the electorate” in the region.

“Lacking a regional comprehensive plan regarding the impact of multiple industrial wind projects in the Thousand Islands region, we respectfully request that the Article X Siting Board pay close attention to the work conducted by our local municipalities,” he wrote. “New York State has wisely chosen to be a home rule state, meaning that municipalities have been given the right to determine local land use decisions for their communities.”

Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, echoed Mr. Tibbles’s support for home rule.

While the tourism council has no formal stance on commercial wind development, Mr. DeYoung said he, too, believes local officials should be the ones determining what’s best for the community.

Additionally, Mr. Tibbles said, such decisions should be made after factoring in the long-term impacts on our tourist-based economy, wildlife, health, property values and the region’s natural beauty.

D. Lee Willbanks, executive director of Save the River, said the problem with the state’s Article X siting process is that it doesn’t require developers to conduct these long-term, regional impact studies.

Save the River in 2010 called for a three-year ban on wind turbines, citing the need for cumulative assessments on bird and bat mortality and other environmental impacts.

Mr. Willbanks pointed out Thursday that no such studies have been conducted by any of the proposed wind farm developers. He said Save the River’s stance on industrial wind development remains the same as three years ago.

There are two wind projects proposed in the region, BP’s Cape Vincent Wind Farm and Iberdrola Renewables’ Horse Creek Wind Farm in Clayton.

Spanish energy giant Iberdrola recently decided to pull out of Hammond, citing uncertainty in both the energy market and federal regulations regarding wind development.