After reviewing Atlantic Wind LLC’s Public Involvement Program Plan for the Horse Creek Wind Farm project, state Department of Public Service staff members recommend that the developer expand its area of study, incorporate more community outreach and clearly establish its project area, stakeholders and turbine height for its final plan.
In a letter she sent to Laura K. Bomyea, the lawyer from Young/Sommer LLC representing Atlantic Wind, Lorna Gillings, a consumer advocacy and education representative for the department, said the company’s plan was “inadequate in several areas” and attached an outline of the department’s staff member comments for improvement.
“DPS staff believes that the application process can be streamlined if the Applicant develops a thorough Final PIP Plan that includes outreach to potentially affected stakeholders early in the process to effectively obtain preliminary input that will guide development of the scope of studies for the application,” she said in the letter.
The most extensive criticisms from DPS staff members were directed toward the size of the company’s study area, which was too small to determine the project’s effects on its stakeholders.
The DPS recommended that Atlantic Wind expand its study area to include Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River costal locations and the villages of Clayton and Sackets Harbor in order to address the low-lying terrain and visual impact issues surrounding the project.
“Likewise, there is a concern with the potential effect of the facility on operations based at Wheeler-Sack Air Base, located at Fort Drum in the town of Philadelphia,” DPS staff members said in their comments.
Atlantic Wind provided a map of the project area with its plan, but DPS staff members were confused about exact location of its boundaries.
The concern came from Atlantic Wind’s proposed interconnection/switching station east of State Route 12, but the map provided places the station outside of the project area, which covers land west of Route 12. DPS staff members advised the developer to amend its map for clarification.
“DPS Staff further advises that if the existing Niagara Mohawk Power Company substation is the proposed interconnection point, then that location is east of Route 12 as described,” DPS staff members said in their comments.
Clarity was a major concern from the DPS, specifically about the maximum turbine height for the project.
Atlantic Wind representatives may consider turbines that are taller than the company’s alleged maximum height consideration of 500 feet, according to the comments. DPS staff members recommended that if taller turbines are considered, the absolute maximum height be disclosed before public outreach.
Expanding, clarifying and communicating with project stakeholders was another concern that DPS staff members hoped the company would address.
While Atlantic Wind’s current plan identifies adjacent landowners to the project as “landowners within 500 feet of a turbine,” according to the comments, DPS staff members suggest that developer representatives alter their definition to include landowners within 5,000 feet of a turbine and within 2,500 feet of any project components. The company also identified “landfall” landowners as project stakeholders, but DPS advised the developer to clearly define the term’s meaning due to the lack of “significant water bodies” in the project area.
“DPS Staff recommends that the stakeholders in the Study Area should be provided notification of public meetings,” DPS Staff members said in their comments.
Public outreach was another aspect of the plan that DPS staff members found lacking.
While Atlantic Wind is still deciding on whether or not to have a local project office, the developer representatives were encouraged to build one and include its hours of availability in its Final PIP, according to the comments. DPS staff members also recommended that developer representatives respond to public inquiries in five days or less.
Orleans Town Supervisor Kevin C. Rarick, shares in the department’s concern for public outreach, saying that he wishes the company would be more communicative and honest with the board about its intentions.
“At least let us participate in the public participation,” he said. “I’m glad that the (DPS) stepped up. At least they are doing their due diligence.”
Atlantic Wind spokesman Paul N. Copleman said the DPS staff members’ comments will help developer representatives for when they file for a preliminary scoping statement.
“That’s where we would lay out the scope and methodology of required environmental and resource studies which we will use to better understand potential constraints, and develop possible mitigation measures for the proposed project,” he said. “This process gives stakeholders, including DPS, multiple opportunities to provide input early in the process.”
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