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Turbine trouble  

Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties are doing their part with the denial of PILOT tax breaks for wind facilities. That will mean that a significant local subsidy will go away. Now it’s time for citizens, business organizations and local politicians at the state level to get it together to oppose big wind. Only significant, coordinated opposition will force an Article 10 siting board to consider local voices, and if we wait any longer, it will be too late.

Credit:  Watertown Daily Times | July 5, 2017 | www.watertowndailytimes.com ~~

If you haven’t noticed, there are now seven commercial wind proposals in the north country, stretching from The Mad River project in northern Oswego/southern Jefferson counties to the North Ridge proposal in St. Lawrence County. At least three of them are west of Fort Drum. Three of them are very close to Fort Drum to the south and southwest.

These all pose a significant risk to the largest economic engine in the region. Fort Drum is the largest single-site employer in New York state. It pours, on last count, at least $1.2 billion into our economy. If all of these proposed wind developments are built, Army sources say, it could cripple the post’s mission.

Wind structures, plain and simple, interfere with radar. Despite the wind industry’s claims, there is no effective way to “filter out” this interference. The cone of influence stretches for up to 35 miles, which means the 500-foot towers proposed for Galloo Island would be problematic for the post.

A single wind facility might be compensated for. But if all the proposed sites are approved under the Article 10 review process, Fort Drum will be flanked – west, southwest and south – by towers that will all be nearly twice as tall as the towers on Maple Ridge, the 10-year-old mega-farm on the Tug Hill Plateau.

This is probably the most serious threat to the north country since the War of 1812. It should be a rallying point for residents of the region to rise up in opposition. Yet that does not seem to be happening.

There is a modicum of organized antiwind activity over the Galloo Island proposal, centered mostly, it seems, in Henderson, which would get all of the bad impacts but none of the lagniappe that Hounsfield, which hosts the project, is slathering over.

There is opposition to the Horse Creek project in Clayton, Orleans, Lyme and Brownville, but it has failed to coalesce. An effective opposition could come from concerted actions, but each town is struggling on its own to deal with the proposal. Clayton seems rudderless, proposing then failing to follow through on zoning amendments that would be helpful, exploring then dropping a request for a designation as a Scenic Area of Statewide Significance, and generally failing to mount a concerted effort to gather the troops for a charge.

The North Ridge project in Parishville and Hopkinton has met nearly the stiffest opposition of all. A citizens group formed there has a website, has rounded up many members considering the small populations involved and has the ears of both St. Lawrence County and the municipalities.

Concerned Citizens for Rural Preservation is a grass roots group that has grasped how opposition to these projects can be effective. They could spare their towns the 500-foot towers and the interference with their environment if they continue in the direction they’ve taken.

That is good for them, but bears no relief for Fort Drum. In fact, the Lewis County Legislature stuck a finger in the post’s eye last month when it registered its opposition to a state Senate bill that would prohibit wind farm construction within 40 miles of an airbase or airfield.

The short-sightedness of that decision is stunning. They are willing to endanger a $1.2 billion, regionwide economic monster to gain $700,000 or so a year (a sum that has been presented in several payment-in-lieu-of-taxes offers by wind companies) in payments from three wind facilities.

The negatives of the bulk of the proposed projects are clear: everything south and west of the post would ruin the regional viewshed and devalue the Thousand Islands as well as jeopardizing Fort Drum. And they would render the NOAA radar station at Montague useless, since 80 percent of the region’s weather originates in the west and south.

There is a lot on the line here. If radar for Wheeler Sack Army Air Base on Fort Drum is marginalized, and experts say that helicopter traffic would be the first casualty, it sharply reduces the value of the post to the Army. When the next round of base realignment and closing rolls through, envision the target on Fort Drum if it can’t effectively fly planes and choppers into Wheeler Sack for training and other purposes.

Wind developers are chomping at the bit to get projects approved and construction started to grab onto the tail end of the production tax credit. Since wind facilities cannot make financial sense without federal, state and local subsidies, they really need to ensure they’ve got their projects rolling in the next two years. There is an exigency to this that we would all do well to recognize.

Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties are doing their part with the denial of PILOT tax breaks for wind facilities. That will mean that a significant local subsidy will go away. Now it’s time for citizens, business organizations and local politicians at the state level to get it together to oppose big wind. Only significant, coordinated opposition will force an Article 10 siting board to consider local voices, and if we wait any longer, it will be too late.

[rest of article available at source]

Source:  Watertown Daily Times | July 5, 2017 | www.watertowndailytimes.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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