Hearing on Jericho Rise wind project draws mostly support; some concerns about construction hours voiced
CHATEAUGAY – The proposed Jericho Rise wind farm drew largely positive comments from people who attended a public hearing on the project Wednesday night, although some expressed concerns about the developer’s request to extend the hours during which construction would be allowed.
The 37-tower wind farm project will be a benefit to the community in many ways, Bellmont landowner Tammy Titus told members of the Chateaugay and Bellmont town boards, which hosted the hearing. The project will create jobs locally, and the influx of construction workers needed to erect the towers will generate business for local stores and restaurants, she said.
“It will help the town financially,” Titus said.
Project developer Jericho Rise Windfarm LLC has proposed putting up 37 wind towers – 29 in the town of Chateaugay and eight in the town of Bellmont. The project was first proposed as a 53-tower wind farm more than a decade ago, but work stopped in 2009 and only revived in 2014 when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced it would be one of four renewable energy projects that would share in $206 million in state funding.
Wednesday’s hearing was held to gather public input on requests from the developer for waivers of local laws that limit the height of the towers and the hours during which construction can take place. Approximately 40 people turned out for the hearing, which was held in the Chateaugay Town Hall.
Laws currently limit the height of the towers to 400 feet; Jericho Rise proposed towers that would be 492 feet tall. The laws also limit the hours of construction to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., while the developers want permission to work from 5:30 a.m. until 10 p.m.
The latter request was the focus of public comment at Wednesday’s hearing, with several speakers voicing concerns about allowing the work to go late into the night and the noise the work would generate.
Aaron Branam of EDP Renewables, the parent company of Jericho Rise Windfarm, said most work would be done during normal hours, but that there may be extenuating circumstances that would require the normal construction day to be extended. He cited days when weather conditions might interrupt or delay the pouring of concrete for the turbine tower pads, which has to be done within a limited time period and could not be put off until the next day.
CJ Madonna, the Plattsburgh attorney who is representing the towns during the project review, said he was uncomfortable with wording in the requested extension that would allow the developers to work beyond normal times “as needed.” The determination of necessity should be up to an onsite monitor, rather than the construction crews, and “there should not be a disagreement,” he said.
“I don’t foresee a problem,” said Chateaugay Supervisor Donald Bilow.
Bilow noted that there had been only one noise complaint to the town when Noble Environmental Power built its 71-turbine wind farm in Chateaugay about a decade ago. That complaint was the result of a problem with a turbine blade that produced a rattling sound and the problem was rectified in a timely manner, he said.
“There were no complaints about late hours,” Bilow said. “If you don’t want a bunch of noise, tell us.”
The two boards did not take any action on the waiver requests Wednesday night. Each town board will have to approve any waiver separately.
Jericho Rise officials are hoping to receive all required permissions from the towns in time to start preliminary work on the project next month. The first phase will involve clearing trees at the turbine sites and along the routes of roads that will be built to allow contractors to access the sites. Company officials had scheduled tree-clearing between April 1 and July 15, but opted to put a hold on operations after June 1, when an environmental review of the project found that clearing trees would be likely to disrupt bird nesting.
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