CHATEAUGAY –– The town boards of Chateaugay and Bellmont on Friday accepted a final environmental impact statement for the proposed Jericho Rise wind farm project.
The two boards, meeting jointly, voted without dissent to accept the FEIS, which is part of the State Environmental Quality Review process. The two boards are involved because the 37-tower project is proposed to span both municipalities, with 29 towers in Chateaugay and eight in Bellmont.
Friday’s vote means that town officials, acting on the recommendation of their consulting firm, have determined that the environmental document is complete. The boards plan another meeting next month on the details of the document before allowing the project to move forward.
“We’ve still got more work to do –– a lot more work to do,” said Chateaugay Supervisor Don Bilow.
The only area of the impact statement that generated much discussion was a section on the effect the project could have on birds and bats. The draft environmental impact statement noted that wind turbines in general cause the deaths of birds and bats that are struck by the turbine blades, but said the project is “not expected to cause significant adverse effects” on the bird and bat populations.
The effects on both groups will be monitored and mitigation efforts will be undertaken if the monitoring finds the impact of the project is greater than anticipated, the FEIS draft said.
CJ Madonna, the lawyer representing the towns in the review process, said he wants the project developer, EDP Renewables, to work with an environmental biologist to review the FEIS findings. He also said he wants to be sure representatives of EDP and GHD Consulting, the firm advising the towns during the negotiations with EDP, are in close communication as the project moves forward.
EDP representative Aaron Branam said his company has made allowances to protect birds that might be affected. EDP had scheduled tree-clearing between April 1 and July 15, but has opted to put a hold on it after June 1, when clearing trees would be likely to disrupt nesting, he said.
Mr. Branam also noted that no work will be undertaken until the complete environmental review process is done.
Madonna also noted that he still has questions about EDP’s request for waivers of local laws limiting the height of the towers to 400 feet and the hours of construction to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The revised application for the project calls for towers with a maximum height of 492 feet, and the company is seeking permission to work from 5:30 a.m. until 10 p.m.
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