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Opinions swirl amid Cassadaga wind farm talks

SINCLAIRVILLE—An ambitious plan to erect up to 70 wind turbines in Charlotte and Cherry Creek has local residents abuzz with excitement – and perhaps, some caution.

On Tuesday, EverPower, a leading wind power developer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hosted an open house at the Sinclairville Fire Hall. The purpose, according to Kevin Sheen, senior director of development for EverPower, was to give residents a “first look” at the company’s newly-proposed 126 megawatt wind farm, dubbed the Cassadaga Wind project.

Spanning approximately 40,000 acres of mostly farmland and recreational land, the wind farm is expected to brandish 330-feet turbine hubs and generate enough electricity to meet the average annual consumption of approximately 36,791 to 55,187 households.

Moreover, the project is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 170,000 tons, as well as benefit the local labor market. Indeed, according to EverPower’s Public Involvement Program Plan, employment, particularly in the construction trades, is expected to increase in both Chautauqua County and the Southern Tier.

Other benefits touted include increased revenues to county and local municipality tax bases, payments to the local hospitality industry, purchase of supplies and goods, and lease revenues to participating landowners.

Sheen, fielding questions from a packed house Tuesday, described the project as still in its infancy stage, not yet subject to the New York State Article 10 Siting Process.

“We are at the very beginning of the process,” he said. “We’re going to continue working with the local community … seeing all of the environmental studies that we need to do and figure out if there’s anything that would cause the project to not be viable.”

Fortunately for Sheen, many of the attendees at the open house had favorable opinions toward the project, citing its economic benefits and dismissing any notion of it creating an “eyesore” on the land.

While no one openly criticized the project, some attendees were more tight-lipped, indicating they needed more information before fully “jumping on board.”

“We’re hopeful … but this is not a done deal,” Sheen said. “If this is a mile-long race, we’re at the starting lane.”

EverPower is expected to develop a draft preliminary scoping statement for the wind farm by the spring or summer. The statement is a necessary step in the Article 10 Siting Process and includes identifying stakeholder concerns, potential environmental impacts and ways to mitigate them.