The comment period has ended for comments concerning siting of the proposed Mad River Wind Farm in the towns of Redfield and Worth.
The period was supposed to end in mid-January, but was extended until Jan. 31 at the request of the town of Worth. Redfield, Oswego County and the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust filed their comments before the comment period was extended.
Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Spanish energy company Iberdrola, is proposing a 350-megawatt project of up to 125 wind turbines in Redfield and the town of Worth in Jefferson County.
The company states the turbines would cover about a 200-acre footprint within about 20,000 acres of working forest it has leased from Salmon River Timberlands LLC, which is part of WoodWise Land Co.
The comments submitted to the state Public Service Commission were the next step in the siting process for the wind farm. Avangrid submitted its preliminary scoping statement – which includes more information on the project such as design drawings, construction details and studies – to the PSC about a month ago.
The PSC will review the comments and then decide what issues Avangrid must address further in the siting process.
Here are some of the biggest issues brought up by Redfield, Oswego County and the land trust:
■ Local laws
Redfield was especially adamant that Avangrid must follow all of the town’s local laws.
“The town has serious reservations about applicant’s willingness to abide by local rules and laws and desire to conduct business ethically and legally,” the town comments state. “Applicant has the audacity to state in its Preliminary Siting Scope that the facility will comply with all substantive requirements of the local laws, except those laws which are unduly burdensome.”
“The town would like to remind applicant that applicant is not above the law. Should this project move forward, the town expects applicant to fully and willingly comply with all applicable laws and regulations and not just those applicant deems worthy of following.”
Redfield’s comment states the company’s Preliminary Siting Scope “clearly shows that wind turbines will be erected right in the middle” of state DEC and NWI wetlands, right next to creeks, streams, rivers and other bodies of water.”
The county also is concerned about wetlands and states Avangrid “should be required to create new wetlands on site or ‘bank’ wetlands nearby within Oswego County to avoid any overall loss in wetland acreage.”
Redfield also wants to company to state how many trees will be lost when the forest is cleared for the turbines, if the cutting down of trees will harm wildlife and the ecosystem and if there is a plan to replace these trees.
■ Water quality.
Redfield, Oswego County and the land trust all worry water quality in the area will be adversely affected by the wind farm and its turbines.
They state the proposed project area is at the headwaters of Salmon River and at the Tug Hill aquifer, a groundwater resource vital to homes and businesses in the region.
“The project poses a serious threat to the area’s water supply,” states Redfield’s comments. “The project site is located directly on top of the Tug Hill aquifer, and applicant intends to put numerous wind turbines there. The Tug Hill aquifer provides public drinking water to 11 municipalities and is also the source for private wells serving residences, manufactured home parks, campgrounds, and other facilities.”
“The town is very concerned applicant’s proposed project could contaminate public drinking water and private drinking water wells,” the town’s comments state.
■ Recreation and tourism
Redfield’s comment state the “project poses a significant, long-term threat to the area’s character and economy. Recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities, are important to the town community. In addition, tourism related to these activities brings approximately $40 million per year to the local economy.”
The county’s comments state the company “should guarantee continued public use for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling (including snowmobile clubs), cross-country skiing and other outdoor activities will continue in the future in the (wind farm) area.”
Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust said it is concerned a major industrial wind energy facility proposed wind farm will harm the region’s hunting and fishing opportunities.
The county wants Avangrid “to ensure that local agriculture will not be adversely affected and should further consult with Oswego County Cornell Cooperative Extension” concerning this.
Redfield states if the turbines compromise the aquifer and water supply, that will harm manufacturing, dairy processing, agriculture and the state DEC Fish Hatchery in Altmar.
■ Existing power projects
Both Redfield and Oswego County state there are numerous other projects in the area that produce electricity, such as a couple of hydropower projects and three nuclear power plants.
In its comments, Oswego County states Avangrid “should be required to run econometric models to ascertain the economic impact on existing electric generating assets (which include some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard assets such as the nuclear plants) and the resulting long term impact upon Oswego County’s economy and local jobs.”
Both Redfield and Oswego County also said there already is excess electricity being generated in Oswego County which cannot be transmitted to those needing it in the current market.
The county states: “The proposed facility area includes shallow, erodible soils over shale rock and comprises the headwaters of the Salmon River.” The county believes the Mad River Wind Farm company, Avangrid Renewables, should be required to consult with the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District for information and advice on how not to disrupt water and soil quality and how to stop soil erosion in the area.
The county also said Avangrid should propose “measures to avoid potential environmental damage from oil spills and spills of other chemicals into the Tug Hill Aquifer and Salmon River.”
Oswego County and Redfield mention concerns about radio and radar communications. The county has a number of emergency management radio towers in that area and depends on the National Weather Service radar in Montague for accurate forecasting. The county states Avangrid should be required to show that its turbines will not interfere with the emergency radio towers or the weather radar.
The Tug Hill land trust also voices concern about Fort Drum radar. “No one seems to be looking at cumulative impacts of the wind facilities … on the National Weather Service’s advanced forecasting radar in Montague, and impacts on Fort Drum, a top military training facility in eastern U.S.,” said Land Trust Executive Director Linda Garrett.
■ Visual impacts
Redfield is concerned “the wind turbines will have a negative effect on the aesthetics and character of the town, given its rural setting. The visual impact of the project is of particular concern to the town, given the area’s tourism-driven economy.”
■ Property values
Redfield wants Avangrid to study the impact its project would have on surrounding property values and “develop a real property value protection plan to protect local landowners.”
■ Health and safety
Oswego County states in its comments that there is no full-time fire department near the proposed wind farm. Redfield has a small, volunteer department. “Given the remote location of the project site and the serious safety concerns that go along with such large-scale construction projects, the town is concerned local emergency services will not be adequate,” Redfield officials write in the town’s comments.
■ Little John Wildlife Management Area
The Tug Hill land trust comments about impacts on wildlife at Little John, as does Redfield, which states “The Little John Wildlife Management Area’s primary purposes are wildlife management, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-dependent recreation. … It is also home to many species of birds and mammals. All species of waterfowl that migrate up and down the Atlantic coast can be found in this area, either as resident species or visitors during fall and spring migrations.”
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