HENDERSON – Some town residents and business owners are readying for what they think could become another fight against wind power.
The prospect of a wind farm on Galloo Island in the town of Hounsfield – about 6 miles from the closest mainland at Stony Point in Henderson – has provoked a response from people in the area who believe there are compelling reasons to oppose building turbines there.
They assert, for example, that the 32 turbines being proposed by Albany-based Hudson Energy Development would pose a risk to bald eagles and other migratory birds that fly through the area. They say turbines would effectively scar the natural beauty of Lake Ontario’s Henderson Bay, which is a popular destination among anglers nationwide who fish for bass, lake trout, walleye and salmon. Some anglers are concerned that an underwater transmission line could affect the migration of fish.
It’s not the first rodeo for these Henderson residents, who were involved in opposing the original Galloo Island Wind Farm project planned by Upstate NY Power Corp. of West Seneca. That 82-turbine, 246-megawatt project died in 2013 after nearly three years of inactivity.
This time, developer William M. Moore of Boston will try to revive the project on a smaller scale. But while his project calls for 50 fewer turbines, the 3.3-megawatt machines could be up to more than 200 feet taller than the 410-foot towers proposed by Upstate NY. Mr. Moore, who has cited the tax benefits of his project, plans to seek a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency that would require approval from the county, the town of Hounsfield and the Sackets Harbor Central School District. Because the island is in Hounsfield, Henderson would see no tax benefit.
Henderson resident Robert E. Ashodian said his two-story home near the shoreline of Henderson Bay at 14537 County Route 123 is about 7 miles away from Galloo Island, and only a few miles from Stony Island. Although Stony Island now blocks his line of sight of Galloo Island, he said wind turbines would be prominently visible if they’re built on the island.
“They would be very visible, and certainly the entire night sky would be lit up,” said the 73-year-old, who’s enjoyed sailing in the harbor area for 35 years. “It’s a marvelous viewshed, and the thought of that being populated with an industrial wind farm is just horrible.”
Mr. Ashodian said he believes the turbines could have a negative impact on the property value of homes – and not just in Henderson. He said all homes along the waterfront of Lake Ontario’s eastern basin will have a glimpse of the towers – from Stony Point in Henderson up to Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent.
He said the area extending from Henderson Harbor to the Thousand Islands – dubbed the “Golden Crescent” – has a “wide geographical range” of people who are concerned about the visual impact of turbines on Galloo Island.
“Galloo Island is very low, and as soon as you get out of the harbor it becomes visible,” Mr. Ashodian said. It’s “surrounded by a huge perimeter that runs across the St. Lawrence River to Cape Vincent and all the way down to Chaumont and Lyme and the Sackets Harbor area and Westcott Beach State Park to Henderson Bay. And there were certainly people who were very much aware of what the viewshed would have been from Lyme or Cape Vincent on the last go-around, when the towers were even lower.”
Mr. Ashodian said he hopes the JCIDA will be transparent about the visual impacts of the project when negotiating a PILOT for the developer with taxing entities.
He said he was disconcerted by comments made recently by agency CEO Donald C. Alexander, who said he doesn’t expect the view of turbines from Henderson will be controversial.
“I’m always sensitive of somebody who thinks they can speak for me,” Mr. Ashodian said.
Henderson resident Mitchell L. Franz, whose waterfront home is on Bens Cove Road off Route 3, has been a charter fishing guide since 1983. He said his home is probably about 10 miles from Galloo Island, which he described as one of the prime fishing spots in the Thousand Islands region.
“The northwest side of the island is where charter captains fish for walleye and smallmouth bass,” the 72-year-old said, adding that guides fish in shoal areas near Stony and Galloo islands. On the northeast side of the island at North Pond, fishing guides anchor their boats to enjoy traditional “shore dinners” by cooking fish caught during day trips.
If turbines were built on the island, Mr. Franz said, “it will upset the tourism” in the region and could pose a deterrent to anglers who have fished here for decades.
But he said that could depend on whether the project’s underwater transmission line – which would create an electromagnetic field – would affect the migration of fish.
“As long as I’m catching fish,” he said, “I would do it with windmills in the background.”
Franklin D. Cean, co-owner of Harbor Marina in Henderson and president of the Lake Ontario Fisheries Coalition, said his chief concern is the effect turbines would have on the “pristine beauty” of Henderson Bay. The Henderson resident estimated the island is about 12 miles from the marina, about the same distance from his two-story waterfront home on Gilman Road off Route 3.
The project “would impair recreation throughout the whole Henderson Harbor area,” he said. “Galloo Island is a favorite fishing spot for everyone out in Henderson and Sackets Harbor, and turbines would affect that negatively.”
Bass charter fishing guide James H. McGowan, whose home at 13849 County Route 123 is about 10 miles from Galloo Island, said that “windmills would certainly destroy the ambiance and beauty” of the area.
He said bass fishing parties have enjoyed stopping at the island for more than a century to enjoy traditional dinners at North Pond – an experience that wouldn’t be the same with turbines there.
“There are a few floating docks and cooking arches out there so you can fry your fish – and it’s a wonderful treat. People come from all over the eastern U.S. to enjoy that,” he said.
Mr. McGowan added that he believes the economic impact of sports fishing in the region would be negatively affected if the industrial project comes to fruition.
“Sports fishing generates millions of dollars here, and anything that threatens that is ill-advised, particularly something that only benefits developers,” he said.
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