YATES – When it arrives, the scoping statement built by Apex Clean Energy for a wind energy project in Yates and Somerset can clear the air of a lot of questions.
The public document will offer the greatest clarity about the concepts and plans behind the proposed Lighthouse Wind system, but one major question looms.
Where is it?
Speaking to the Yates Town Council and a standing room crowd Thursday, Lighthouse Wind Senior Development Manager Dan Fitzgerald said his team is anxious to get it out.
But the process of assembling the next stage in their application for a 200 mega-watt wind energy system is battling the dual problem of new questions flowing from Albany and little response on those coming from Apex.
According to Fitzgerald, Lighthouse Wind is the most advanced project in the state’s Article X pipeline. Their pole position has produced delays as the public service commission and state environmental and governmental agencies build the policy road on which the project’s application will drive.
“This has stretched out farther than we thought, the public service commission is taking taking (a long time) on our questions,” Fitzgerald said. “We hoped to have it out by the end of summer. At best, we’re still three weeks to a couple of months out.”
As they await the document’s release, residents and town officials remained frustrated not having power or knowledge in the process.
Discussions about road repairs following construction, notices for incoming property owners and wind turbine placement bounced through a lengthy but civil public comment session Thursday.
“We’re looking for answers,” Supervisor John Belson said to one resident. “We don’t have them.”
“At this point, we don’t know where the turbines will be until there is the (scoping statement)” Councilman Wes Bradley offered another. “At that point, they’d be shown.”
Fitzgerald urged patience. The scoping statement will be the base – a massive one, choking three thick binders, he suggested – for stakeholders to understand and either support or oppose the project.
“It’s the outline for everything we know and what we are going to study,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re receiving the information to shape the final project … it’s a long way to go. I urge (stakeholders) to wait until the application is there. That’s the project, right now we have a concept.”
He said the scoping statement would be reviewed for at least a year after its release.
The progress on data collections for the applications has also been hampered on the ground level.
According to Lighthouse Wind Development Manager Taylor Quarles, the meteorological tower constructed last month near the intersection of Marshall and Lower Lake roads went off-line for about two days earlier this month after a mower severed a pair of its guide wires.
“(The mower) got too close and clipped the wires,” Quarles explained. He said there was never a chance the 180-foot pole would fall, but crews were immediately sent out to re-establish a network to keep the connections tense.
Apex has beefed up the ground-based protections for the tower, which Quarles said collects data at its base as well as its peak.
“We placed four highly-reflective orange posts standing vertically,” he noted. “It won’t happen again.”
Yates, Apex and S.O.S. to work on survey
YATES – Representatives of the Yates Town Council, Apex Clean Energy and Save Ontario Shores will work together to lead a community survey on the Lighthouse Wind project, the town announced Thursday.
Councilman Jim Whipple told residents the three-man committee will not directly create the survey, but they will hire a consultant and oversee the budget and public reporting for the project.
“(The committee) will provide the survey details and results directly to residents, audit responses and report quarterly (to the town council),” Whipple said. “We don’t know the timing, but this board is open to look for funding, (and start) preferably the sooner the better.”
Councilman Wes Bradley will represent the town, with an official from the wind-energy developer and a board member from the active community group to be named later.
Supporters and opponents of the project provided a visual straw poll Thursday, with backers in orange shirts and blockers in yellow. The town and the stakeholder groups are seeking hundreds, if not thousands, of responses to give a clearer picture on where Yates’ people stand.
“S.O.S. would be delighted to participate,” said Roger Barth, a member of the group. “We compliment the board for taking this step.”
The town does not have approval or veto power over the proposed wind turbine project, which at full scale would place 60 to 70 towers in a network running across the land north of Lyndonville and Barker to near the Lake Ontario shoreline.
But both the Somerset Town Council and the Niagara County Legislature have passed resolutions opposing the project, which they based in part due to the negative response it received in a community survey there.
Neither the Yates Town Council nor the Orleans County Legislature have taken a public stance on the project.
In other news:
— Councilman Wes Bradley told residents that the area’s state legislators have taken an even more aggressive approach to local concerns over the membership of a potential state siting board for the Lighthouse Wind project.
The state’s Article X statute, which removed local approval for projects the proposed 200-megawatt wind farm, allows for two members of the board to come from nominations by host communities. With Yates, Somerset and Orleans and Niagara counties all able to suggest candidates, the town has been concerned about being shut out of the final say on the project.
“We should have equal representation between Somerset and Yates,” Bradley said.
In a letter to the governor, State Assembly members Steve Hawley and Jane Corwin, and State Senator Rob Ortt urged the state to put two ad-hoc siting board members from each town.
The siting board would be formed only if Lighthouse Wind moves ahead with it’s preliminary scoping statement, an action the company’s representatives say will happen this fall.
— A litigation contract was established Thursday that will aid the town’s legal bills in ongoing lawsuits over the wind project and a meteorological tower installed last month in Yates.
Town Attorney Andrew Meier said a $10,000 initial deposit will be made by the project’s developers.
Last month, the town contracted with attorney Dan Spitzer to handle their wind-related legal questions and representation.
Save Ontario Shores is currently pursuing an Article 78 lawsuit against the town, the developer and a town resident whose land hosts the met tower that will come up for an initial hearing next month.