Potential habitat fragmentation and wildlife displacement or reduction have prompted the Thousand Islands Land Trust to announce its opposition toward Avangrid Renewables’s Horse Creek Wind Farm and any other projects proposed in the St. Lawrence River Valley.
Jake R. Tibbles, executive director of TILT, said in a letter to the state Public Service Commissison that proposed wind energy development in Eastern Lake Ontario, the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence River threaten several species and sensitive habitats and the trust’s efforts to conserve them. Mr. Tibbles also called for the state to “clearly define guidelines” for siting wind farms, allowing the state to bring clean energy without undermining previous conservation efforts.
The trust has monitored Avangrid Renewables’s proposed project since 2009, and previously wrote a letter opposing wind energy facilities proposed in Cape Vincent. Mr. Tibbles said in his letter that 302,000 to 604,000 acres of land throughout the state will be used for renewable energy, arguing that the state could approve projects in other areas without compromising conservation initiatives.
“Our position on wind has stayed consistent over the last several years, but with wind project in Clayton, we thought it was important to restate our position,” he said.
In addition to clear guidelines, TILT called for the state, Ontario and other Canadian provincial governments to conduct environmental studies, impact assessments and comprehensive studies that encompassed all current and proposed projects in the Thousand Islands.
“While cumulative impact studies are important in helping with the discussion, we do not believe these studies would conclude that this region is compatible for the siting of wind turbines,” he said.
Many areas throughout the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence River Valley untouched by development have resisted the effects of climate change.
Mr. Tibbles, however, said in his letter TILT fears that the cumulative effects of wind turbines would reduce these areas’ defense against climate change.
“If you include wind development on top of already sensitive land, the habitat fragmentation and degradation could displace several species in the area,” he said.
TILT is also concerned that habitat fragmentation, edge encroachment and land use changes from wind energy development threaten the Chaumont Barrens, which Mr. Tibbles said is the state’s last alvar community, and the Frontenac Arch connecting the Adirondack Mountains to Algonquian Park and Canadian Shield.
“This is not a climate change debate,” Mr. Tibbles said. “This is a siting debate.”
The risk of displacing or killing several avian species and bats also prompted TILT’s opposition.
In his letter, Mr. Tibbles said several grassland and neotropical birds fly over and nest in Eastern Lake Ontario, which is part of the Atlantic Flyway, including the threatened Eastern Meadowlark, Cerulean Warbler and Bobolinks species. More than 40,000 hawks, vultures and eagles migrate through Lake Ontario, and Mr. Tibbles said in his letter that considering the high kill rates and eagle take permits, wind turbines would make the area more threatening for these species.
The trust is also concerned that turbine blades and the pressure gradients they create could further reduce bat populations, which Mr. Tibbles said have already been reduced by 80 percent since white nose syndrome, a fungus that infects bats’ muzzles, ears and wings, was introduced.
“Adding another stressor – in this case, a man-made stressor – could cause the entire population to collapse,” he said.
Avangrid Renewables plans to build 60 to 72 turbines for its 250-megawatt project, which is overseen by its subsidiary Atlantic Wind LLC.
Paul N. Copleman, a communications manager for Avangrid Renewables, could not be reached for comment.
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