A coalition opposed to the Horse Creek Wind Farm project wants additional measures taken to address the potential compatibility issues involving wind development, Fort Drum and the north country.
River Residents Against Turbines, or River RATs, claimed in the comments it recently submitted to the Development Authority of the North Country, which facilitated the study, that the document doesn’t have enough stakeholders or stakeholder feedback to address the possible effects of wind energy development in the region.
“There are all of these stakeholders within the study area. It’s important that they be participative and that their comments not only be noted, but (considered),” said Ross Holbrook, a founding member of the group.
The 118-page study was formally released by DANC earlier this month and covers 25 areas of compatibility including housing, the environment, economic development, safety, aviation noise and wind energy development. The study’s steering committee and technical working group include post officials, local, county and state public officials and nonprofit representatives.
With regard to wind energy development, the planning document recommended that military officials identify areas where turbines could pose a threat, create a Regional Wind Energy Policy Steering Group, work with developers to create agreements that support both new projects and military missions and become an interested party in the Article 10 review processes for north country projects.
“It’s a document that will hopefully incorporate a really diverse set of opinions and diverse set of participants,” Mr. Holbrook said.
River RATS, made up of a group of residents and business owners in the Thousand Islands region, recommended that researchers interview more municipalities, particularly towns with wind projects proposed for construction inside their boundaries including Clayton, Orleans, Hounsfield, Redfield and Worth; as well as local organizations that work within the 30-mile study area.
The coalition also encouraged DANC include a variety of stakeholders in the Fort Drum Compatibility Committee and other advisory groups, and not become overly reliant on wind developers.
“We believe wind developers often don’t fulfill their commitments,” Mr. Holbrook said. “I would like to think it would be possible for any local stakeholder or group to be able to participate.”
The authority hosted meetings in October and November to acquire public feedback about growth at the post and potential compatibility issues, meetings that have revealed varying opinions about wind turbine development between Jefferson and Lewis counties. River RATS in its comments requested that the study include the results from those meetings.
The group also argued that the study should recognize several comments made by groups and officials who expressed concern or opposition about wind energy development near Fort Drum, including the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, and Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa.
“I feel that these projects are so massive that they will overtake Fort Drum,” said Cindy L. Grant, a Clayton resident and member of River RATS.
At least two federally listed endangered and threatened species, the Indiana Bat and Northern Long-Eared Bat respectively, are on or around Fort Drum, and the report recommended that land use study partners and local, state and national environmental groups work together to ensure Fort Drum doesn’t become a “wildlife refuge island” as a result of habitat destruction in other areas.
The coalition encouraged Fort Drum to oppose the Horse Creek Wind Farm for its potential impacts on bat populations. Mrs. Grant said she believed the project proposed in the towns of Clayton, Orleans, Brownville and Lyme would hurt or displace bats, causing them to flee to other areas like Fort Drum.
“Then Fort Drum could end up in trouble,” she said.
More information about the study, which is open for comment through Monday, can be found at http://wdt.me/danc-study.
“We were very pleased to participate in the Joint Land Use Study and appreciated DANC for providing an opportunity for public comment,” Mr. Holbrook said.