CLAYTON – Save the River is asking state agencies assess the potential cumulative impacts of all proposed wind energy facilities along the St. Lawrence River.
The local non-profit, which is dedicated to protecting the river, asked the state Department of Public service and state Department of Environmental Conservation in a news release to conduct a generic environmental impact statement to assess the potential cumulative impacts caused by multiple wind projects along the river. The organization called for a moratorium on wind projects until the potential impacts were assessed in 2010 and objected the Cape Vincent Wind Farm application for the Article X review in 2013.
According to DEC’s website, a GEIS is a broad assessment of multiple “actions”, whether their by one or multiple parties, to determine their potential environmental impacts. The nonprofit’s staff claimed in their letter that state agencies will not have the knowledge needed to review a single wind project without conducting a GEIS.
“For years – decades, this tool has been used by the state to take into account the impacts of multiple projects,” said D. Lee Willbanks, the executive director for Save the River. “Those two agencies have what we think is the mandate, but also the expertise and staff to do something like this.”
The nonprofit also encourages state agencies to work with Ontario, Canada, to conduct a study that would encompass all wind projects proposed along the river in both the U.S. and Canada.
Mr. Willbanks said he believes state agencies and the Canadian government could work together, as they had when implementing Plan 2014 in December.
“I don’t think its insurmountable,” he said.
Save the River not only wants to determine the overall impact of wind development along the river, but also which species it could affect.
The nonprofit is also concerned with the potential impacts on bird and bat mortality, ground water, potential runoff and sediment issues, Mr. Willbanks said.
“If a request is submitted, it will be reviewed,” the DEC said in a background statement. “The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation remains committed to Article 10’s ongoing and comprehensive evaluation of the potential environmental and cumulative impacts associated with wind project development.”
The nonprofit wants to collaborate with municipal leaders and other nonprofits like the Thousand Islands Land Trust and persuade state agencies to conduct the broad study.
Mr. Willbanks said collaborating with other parties will help determine the scope of a potential GEIS and also help address several concerns from other parties.
“By its very natural, a Generic Environmental Impact Survey is inclusive,” he said. “It’s a participatory process.”
While he supports Save the River’s call to action, Jake R. Tibbles, executive director of the Thousand Islands Land Trust, said the state Article 10 law review process already requires the GEIS process for reviewing wind energy facility projects.
He also said the state Research and Development Authority, the New York Natural Heritage Program and Nature Conservancy already conducted a statewide impact assessment of potential environmental impacts from wind energy development. The study was conducted in November 2014.
“The Article 10 procedures and Public Service Commission have jurisdiction over any sort of any large scale renewable energy projects in New York State,” he said.
Mr. Tibbles, however, also said state agencies should compare the north country’s potential electric generation with land use and any project’s potential impacts to endangered, threatened, migratory and avian species and ground water. Mr. Tibbles encourages people to share their comments on the DPS’s website.
“This is really were comments should be made,” he said.
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