HENDERSON HARBOR – Henderson is preparing to fight a proposed wind farm that calls for nearly 600-foot-tall turbines on Galloo Island, about 6 miles away from the town’s shoreline.
A $19,600 study led by the Potsdam-based Clarkson University School of Business to research various impacts of the 31-turbine project was approved Wednesday by the Town Council. The study – to be expanded if more towns participate – will explore the potential impact of Albany-based Hudson Energy’s project on Henderson’s economy, waterfront viewshed and property values.
The island’s closest mainland access is about 6 miles away at Stony Point in Henderson, but it is part of the town of Hounsfield. As a result, Henderson would not receive property tax benefits from the 102.3-megawatt wind farm, which calls for an underwater transmission route to a National Grid substation in the town of Oswego.
Henderson Supervisor John J. Culkin said the town’s approval of the study comes after it held a public forum July 16 to measure the community’s interest in investing in Clarkson’s proposal. About 35 residents who attended the meeting unanimously opposed the 102.3-megawatt wind farm proposed by Hudson, which began the state-led Article 10 review process for its project earlier this summer.
Mr. Culkin said Henderson residents supported the study because they contend the wind farm would pose a threat to the economy by tarnishing the natural beauty of Lake Ontario’s Henderson Bay, which is a popular fishing destination among anglers nationwide. Empirical data from the study could be used to show the state why the wind farm would be detrimental to the town, he said.
“If we’re asked why we think this wind farm might be good for Hounsfield but not Henderson, we need to have scientific and empirical evidence to prove it. Otherwise, our argument is going to be empty and useless,” Mr. Culkin said. “We want to know if having huge windmills on Galloo Island is going to cause people to fish somewhere else, if it’s going to have an impact on restaurants and motels, and if it’s going to cost us jobs.”
Henderson Councilman Edwin D. Glaser said the board decided to proactively invest in the study “to have our guns loaded before the fight starts with documentation for the project. That’s what our community wants us to do.”
Henderson residents previously were involved in opposing the original Galloo Island Wind Farm planned by Upstate NY Power Corp. of West Seneca. That 82-turbine, 246-megawatt project died in 2013 after nearly three years of inactivity.
To make the project affordable, Hudson plans to seek a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency that would require approval from three affected taxing jurisdictions: Hounsfield, Sackets Harbor Central School District and the county.
Mr. Culkin said the study will be led by Dr. Martin D. Heintzelman, an associate professor of economics and financial studies at Clarkson’s School of Business who has completed several research projects centered on land-use economics and property values. Mr. Heintzelman did not respond to a call Monday seeking comment.
Mr. Culkin said he is hopeful the study will be expanded to include participation from more towns along the so-called Golden Crescent region, which extends along the lake’s shoreline from Henderson Harbor to the Thousand Islands.
He said he is reaching out to supervisors from the towns of Cape Vincent, Lyme, Brownville, Hounsfield, Ellisburg and Sandy Creek. He is hopeful towns will pass resolutions to join the study in August, enabling Clarkson to start the project as soon as possible.
“The cost of the study would go down if we brought in other towns, and it would yield a better result,” Mr. Culkin said, adding that Clarkson plans to start the study this summer and finish it by the end of the year.
Hudson’s proposed 575-foot turbines are expected to be visible from at least a 15-mile radius from the island, according to the state Public Service Commission. Unless other towns participate in the study, however, Clarkson’s viewshed analysis would be limited to “any point along Henderson’s shoreline,” Mr. Culkin said. That analysis calls for the development of three-dimensional, computer-generated images to illustrate the view of turbines from different shoreline locations.
Clarkson originally had proposed doing a study costing about $70,000, which would have included a “public opinion research” component of about $45,000. But Mr. Culkin said a consensus was reached during the public forum that residents wouldn’t need to be surveyed.
“We already know people in Henderson are opposed to it,” he said.
The board also elected not to fund a $5,000 component of Clarkson’s proposal that would have analyzed the 20-year PILOT agreement to be pursued by Hudson, he said. But that analysis could become part of the study if more towns participate.
Under the PILOT, annual payments made by the developer to taxing entities would be based on how much energy is generated by the turbines. The developer would make a base annual payment of $8,500 per megawatt of production capacity for the project. Under Hudson’s proposed 102.3-megawatt proposal, that totals about $870,000 – down sharply from the $2.14 million base payment under Upstate’s proposal. That total would grow by 2.5 percent each year, and the developer would pay a supplemental amount if wholesale electric power rates reach certain thresholds.
Hounsfield Supervisor Timothy W. Scee said the town will not participate in the Clarkson study because it adamantly supports the wind project.
Henderson “is entitled to do whatever they want to, but we’re not participating,” he said, adding that the waterfront view of turbines in Sackets Harbor and Hounsfield isn’t expected to be a concern among residents. “Hounsfield is in support of the project because of the property-tax benefits and job creation.”
Hudson has said the project is expected to create 120 temporary construction jobs and eight-full time jobs.
Depending on how far Hudson advances in the Article 10 review of the project, Mr. Culkin said, Henderson could cover the expense of the Clarkson study by applying for “intervenor funding” from the PSC. Hudson will be required under Article 10 to provide intervenor funding to the PSC, which then would award it to municipalities and other groups affected by the project. The purpose of intervenor funding is to allow parties to contribute toward research that aids the PSC’s review of projects.
Neil Habig, project developer for Hudson, said in an email Monday that Hudson soon plans to hold two public meetings in the region about the project; dates and locations haven’t been determined yet. Hudson also plans to launch a website for the project but has not said when it will be operational.
Hudson submitted its Preliminary Involvement Program plan to the PSC on June 16. Under Article 10, it is required to submit a Preliminary Scoping Statement within 150 days of the submission of its PIP plan.
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