LOWVILLE – The towns of Lowville and Harrisburg have been granted a combined $29,000 in intervenor funding to review the Number Three wind project.
Administrative law judges Kevin J. Casutto from the state Department of Public Service and Molly McBride from the state Department of Environmental Conservation during an Article 10 pre-application hearing Thursday approved payouts of $14,500 apiece to the two towns, the only applicants.
“The funds are to be used as described in the requests for funds,” Judge Casutto said.
Each town sought $4,000 for legal review of the project by their respective attorneys – Raymond A. Meier for Lowville and Mark G. Gebo for Harrisburg – and $10,500 for engineering review.
The towns propose to pool their engineering money for a joint review of potential project impacts on things like groundwater, land use, wildlife, cultural resources, noise, visual, public health, economics, utilities and roads. The study is to be headed by Kris D. Dimmick from BCA Architects and Engineers, Watertown, who last year assisted the town of Denmark with a review of the Copenhagen Wind project proposed just north of the Number Three project.
“The participation of the engineers and attorneys will provide the Town with technical and procedural background to participate and provide intelligent comments and to understand the application and its potential impacts,” states Harrisburg’s funding application.
Intervenor funding is paid upfront by the project developer, then awarded through the state to municipalities or private individuals by request. More will be available to assist with further review of the project down the road, project officials have said.
Invenergy, based in Chicago, Ill., is proposing 35 to 50 turbines in the towns of Harrisburg and Lowville, as well as up to 100 acres of photovoltaic solar panels. Tentative plans would be to start construction in 2019.
The project area is just north of the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm and sandwiched among three other proposed wind projects – Copenhagen Wind Farm, Deer River Wind Farm and Roaring Brook Wind Farm – on the Tug Hill Plateau.
Invenergy in November filed a preliminary scoping statement and has since received extensive comments from the Department of Public Service, DEC, state Department of Health and the town of Lowville.
Judge Casutto noted that the company earlier on Thursday had filed responses to all the comments, which are to be addressed in the project’s final scoping statement. He also formally kicked off the stipulation process, which allows involved parties like the municipalities to discuss with the developer specific items that should have additional study but “might not otherwise be addressed” under general wind farm requirements.
The hearing was scheduled to be held at the Lowville municipal building. However, due to the lake effect snow storm, it was instead conducted by teleconference so the judges and other interested parties did not need to be physically present.
Marguerite Wells and Eric D. Miller from Invenergy and several representatives from the towns and the Lewis County planning office convened at the municipal building for the hearing and intended to stay around afterward to informally further discuss project scoping, possibilities for host community and road use agreements and any other issues moving forward.
Article 10 project reviews are ultimately conducted by a siting board of five Albany officials. However, for each project, two ad hoc members are to be added through nomination by local municipalities and appointment by the Senate’s president pro tem and Assembly speaker, respectively.
While no Assembly candidate has yet been selected, the Senate representative will be Leslie A. Sheldon, Copenhagen, who edits Empire Farm & Dairy, a statewide agricultural magazine also published by Johnson Newspaper Corp.
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