LOCKPORT – Opponents of the proposed wind power project in Somerset and Yates had their say, and then some, last week before the Niagara County Board of Health.
The board, which had decided in September to give 20 minutes to Save Ontario Shores, the anti-wind turbine group also known as SOS, listened to its representatives for almost an hour. At the next meeting Dec. 3, representatives from Apex Clean Energy are to have their say, according to company development manager Taylor Quarles.
Meanwhile, the Town of Somerset, which is officially opposed to the project – being proposed by Apex under the name Lighthouse Wind LLC – held a rally in Golden Hill State Park on Friday featuring former state Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco and other attorneys from his firm, Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, hired to fight the proposal.
Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert said that more than 200 people attended the event at the park lighthouse. Apex issued a statement calling the event “political posturing” by the SOS-backed candidates for the Nov. 3 town elections.
Surveys conducted by the town government in Somerset showed opposition to the project from as many as 67 percent of property owners, depending on how the question was posed, with 56 percent of property owners returning the survey. In Yates, SOS conducted a survey that resulted in 78 percent opposition. The group mailed out 1,235 surveys, and 34 percent were returned.
Apex wants to construct as many as 70 wind turbines in Somerset and Yates, near the shores of Lake Ontario, although Quarles said the company is not ready to reveal their number, location or height. Previous statements have indicated the towers may be up to 600 feet high.
Paul J. Mullane, a Lockport auto dealer who owns property in Somerset and is active in the SOS group, said the turbines would be more than twice as high as those at the old Bethlehem Steel site on the shores of Lake Erie.
Their size would create a sustained noise level of 70 decibels over 1,000 feet away, Cynthia Hellert, a retired registered nurse from Yates, asserted to the Board of Health. She said that will make it hard for residents to sleep. “Sleep deprivation is a known form of torture,” she said.
Hellert also said “infrasound” – the low-level hum caused by the vibration of the spinning turbines – can lead to physical problems such as pain, pressure and ringing in the ears.
Quarles said the state siting board procedure, often criticized by Engert for virtually freezing out local input, requires studies on noise, although Hellert said that doesn’t happen until the formal application is submitted. That siting board will then decide the matter.
“These issues will be covered extensively,” Quarles said.
He said the company’s preliminary scoping statement, which has been delayed a few times, is now expected to be filed in early November. However, it won’t include the size, number and location of turbines, which Engert said is the main information he wants.
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