The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust called for the state and the developer behind the Mad River Wind Farm to thoroughly assess how the project could affect the heart of Tug Hill.
In a letter Thursday to the Public Service Commission, the trust expressed concerns about Avangrid Renewables’s 350-megawatt project possibly fragmenting the core forest in the plateau and threatening the species, waters and recreation in the area.
The project location, a 20,000-acre parcel in the towns of Redfield and Worth, is located within the western part of 175,000-acre core forest.
In order to determine the extent of the project’s potential effects, the environmental nonprofit, which protects about 20,000 acres in the Tug Hill, requested the developer to have studies conducted and compose mitigation plans.
“There are a lot of unknowns and we were just trying to point out what we thought was lacking” in the preliminary scoping statement, said Linda M. Garrett, executive director of the trust. “This doesn’t seem like a good place to put a (wind farm).”
The trust expressed concern in its letter about the project and its construction potentially polluting the streams that run through it.
A section of the Mad River and eight streams run through the property, owned by the WoodWise Land Company.
The trust, citing a working document from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said there could be possible contamination in those creeks and the Tug Hill aquifer from road construction over nearby streams for the wind farm, oil leaks and other sources.
“It’s going to create sediment when they do stream crossings and wetland crossings, and you can’t avoid that,” Mrs. Garret said. “There a lot of different communities that depend on that water.”
The trust also shared concerns about how the 88-turbine facility could affect fish and bird species.
Clearing trees to build the turbines and access roads would expose streams to more sunlight, which Mrs. Garret said could affect fish by altering the temperature.
The property is also home to several at-risk bird species, the trust cited from SUNY ESF’s working document, and a couple of endangered bat species.
“That’s a lot of obstacles for birds and bats to avoid,” Mrs. Garrett said.
The trust also scrutinized the state Article 10 process, which developers must follow when developing large-scale energy projects, for not addressing how several proposed wind projects in the area would affect the Tug Hill Region and Fort Drum.
The environmental group shared concerns about how the proposed wind farm and others around it would affect the base’s radar and training capabilities, echoing criticisms from the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization and several elected officials. The trust has created a buffer zone of about 7,500 acres through conservation easements to prevent adverse development near the post.
“We’ve been working with Fort Drum for years,” Mrs. Garrett said. “I don’t think it would be really smart to do something that’s going to impact the viability of Fort Drum.”
The developer and its subsidiary, Atlantic Wind LLC, entered the second major phase of the Article 10 review process for the Mad River Wind Farm when it submitted its preliminary scoping statement in December.
When asked if the trust had contact with the developer, Mrs. Garrett said members attended the developer’s open house meetings. The organization has also not had contact with Woodwise.
Paul N. Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid, did not respond to a request for comment.
The environmental nonprofit’s executive director said she expects to release the final report from SUNY ESF in a couple of weeks.
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