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Residents and business form River RATs to oppose Horse Creek Wind Farm

A coalition of residents and business owners from the Thousand Islands region have banded together oppose Avangrid Renewables’ proposed Horse Creek Wind Farm.

Members of River Residents Against Turbines, or River RATs, have hung up fliers, handed out pamphlets and created a website and a social media campaign to share information from the developer’s public involvement program plan for the project and their economic and environmental concerns, said Ross Holbrook, a founding member.

“This is like the poster-child project for poor siting of an industrial wind farm,” Mr. Holbrook said. “We understand that it would destroy the beauty, culture, economy, environment and health of this incomparably scenic, unique and world-famous region.”

Mr. Holbrook, a seasonal resident, said he and other residents and business owners from the area formed the group at the beginning of the year. The group says on its website that it supports “realistic and rational” siting for renewable energy facilities, and argues that the Horse Creek Wind Farm, planned for a site in parts of the towns of Clayton, Orleans, Lyme and Brownville, does not meet that description.

“We think it’s really important because it’s such a transformative project,” Mr. Holbrook said. “People just need to be made aware of it.”

River RATs claims the Horse Creek project would threaten aviation operations at Watertown International Airport and Fort Drum, kill thousands of birds and bats, reduce tourism, hurt property values and adversely impact the health of people who live near the project.

The group’s website argues that the project could kill between 24,000 and 72,000 birds, cause adverse health effects such as dizziness and cognitive impairment, and interfere with radar systems at Fort Drum. The website also references a Nanos Clarkson Research Collaboration Study that found Jefferson County properties with a view of turbines at Wolfe Island depreciated in value by 15 percent.

“I don’t think it will offer anything at all in regards to value added for the Thousand Islands,” said Jack L. Woodward, a River RATs member from Wellesley Island.

The coalition also argues that Avangrid Renewables lacks a “social license” from the community.

The group defines a social license on its website as an approval from community members for a business or project based on a business’s relationship with the community. Mr. Holbrook said the developer has failed to receive approval from communities such as the towns of Clayton and Orleans, referencing letters from Clayton and Orleans officials that scrutinize the developer’s promotional materials and claim the developer lacks transparency.

“That’s how you don’t earn a social license,” Mr. Holbrook said.

In addition to impacting Fort Drum’s radar systems, Mr. Woodward said he believes the facility would reduce tourism and “won’t survive” unless the developer receives subsidies. Judy E. Tubolino, a River RATs member from LaFargeville, said she was concerned about potential health impacts from infrasound and shadow flicker, as well as the site’s potential to affect Fort Drum. She also said there were too many residences within the proposed area for a wind farm.

River RATs will hold its first public information session at 7 p.m. July 26, at the Tabernacle in Thousand Island Park.

Mr. Holbrook also said the group will continue monitoring and participating in the state law Article 10 review process for the project.

“We hope to have a very good turnout,” Mr. Holbrook said about the informational session. “It’s very important for people to be aware of the project.”

The group’s website is http://www.riverresidentsagainstturbines.com.

Avangrid Renewables and its subsidiary, Atlantic Wind LLC, previously proposed to build 60 to 72 turbines, each up to 500 feet, for the Horse Creek project.

Paul N. Copleman, a communications manager for Avangrid Renewables, said in a statement this week that elements of the proposed design were being revised based on feedback the company received. One revision, Mr. Copleman said, involved reducing the number of turbines to 45. The revisions are still subject to change, he said.

“As you know, lots of data points and scientific analysis inform the placement of turbines, and we now need to evaluate new potential turbine locations as we continue to evaluate the area for a wind farm,” Mr. Copleman said in the statement, adding that the developer has not yet determined when it will submit a preliminary scoping statement for the project.