The Somerset Town Board and members of the Save Ontario Shores group held an informational public meeting Tuesday at the Barker Fire Hall to update the 150 residents in attendance on the process of commenting on the preliminary scoping statement for the proposed Apex clean energy wind project.
The project is said to be a 201-megawatt initiative, placing 58 to 70 wind turbines – which may be as tall as 620 feet in Somerset and neighboring Yates in Orleans County.
The preliminary scoping statement was released for public comment on Nov. 23. The comment period continues through Jan. 6.
The period will allow for municipalities and members of the community to review the 200-page document and make any comments regarding it. These comments can include, concerns about setbacks, turbine height and any studies which community members would like Apex to conduct, Dahvi Wilson, senior manager of public affairs for Apex Clean Energy, previously said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Somerset Supervisor Dan Engert, SOS president John Riggi, Yates Supervisor Jim Simon and former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco explained to community members the process of the filing of the preliminary scoping statement and the process used to make comments.
The room was set up with computer stations in order for residents to sit down and make comments on the scoping statement. Representatives stood close by to assist residents with any questions in which they may have had about the process.
Additionally, the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee, which was established to review the town’s existing local law pertaining to wind projects, will be addressing the board at tonight’s meeting to present their recommendations.
Some of these changes will involve the height of a wind turbine, increased setbacks and addressing concerns over a decrease in property values. It will also involve addressing health concerns, construction concerns and to require a baseline study to see that project is not harmful to the area.
“The recommendations that are expected to be brought forward are very comprehensive,” Engert said. “These are some concerns that need to be addressed in out local law.”
After, the board will then work with the town attorney to begin drafting a new law, which will replace the existing 2006 written law.
“The technology, the size and the magnitude of what is being proposed today is not covered in the local law,” Engert said. “There is so much more information about turbine project today than there was in 2006 and most areas of that local law are needed to be looked at.”
Engert hopes to have a new law drawn up as soon as January and to hold a public hearing soon after. If necessary, based on comments from the public, the team of attorneys will go back an revise the new local law. However, Engert fully expects to adopt the new law by February.
The board is finding comfort in the support they have been receiving from a handful of state Department of Environmental Conservation officers who agree that turbines of this magnitude being proposed is a danger to the avian population.
In a letter to the DEC from Save Ontario Shores, the group stated that placing wind turbines in the proposed location will put millions of birds in danger of collision with the turbines.
DEC members Heidi Kennedy agreed with the statement, saying that this was one of the biggest issues for the project. That’s due to the fact that the area along the southern shore of Lake Ontario is critical for migratory birds as stopover habitat.
Additionally, she said the habitat within several kilometers of Lake Ontario has been shown to have a high richness and abundance of migratory birds during both spring and fall migration.
Other concerns include the survival of endangered species within the project area including a short-eared owl and hawks. There is a concern about bald eagle nests, which may be within the project area as well.
Somerset has felt encouraged by the agreements made by the DEC, making everyone hopeful that with the help of the agency, the town will ultimately be able to put an end to the proposed project, Engert said.
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