SYRACUSE – A proposed wind farm on 20,000 acres of private land in Oswego and Jefferson counties is facing opposition and questions.
Avangrid Renewables, which owns the Maple Ridge wind farms and the Hardscrabble wind farm in Northern New York and dozens more around the county, says the Mad River project would create 350 temporary construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs and produce enough electricity to power 60,000 homes.
The company says on its website that the project could be completed as soon as 2021.
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) professors, David Newman and Brian Fisher, produced a white paper for the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust that lists several impacts the proposed wind farm could have on the region.
Proposed for the towns of Worth, in Jefferson County, and Redfield, in Oswego County, on land owned by the WoodWise Land Company LLC, the project would include up to 88 wind turbines that stand more than 500 feet tall and include blades more than 200 feet long, according to the study.
“We are not against wind power. We are opposed to Mad River Wind Farm. We just don’t think it’s a good site,” says Linda Garrett, executive director of the land trust.
She says the impact on the region would be too great, including changing the recreational experience for those who hunt or snowmobile in the region. In addition, the construction work, including the needed road building, could affect wildlife and the Salmon River fishery. The work would also “fragment” forest land, she says.
The white paper noted that installing and maintaining the project would require roads as well as clearings, breaking up the habitat. The Tug Hill forest, the report said, “is the third largest and most contiguous forested region in New York State, after the Adirondacks and Catskill forests, and can be considered one of the most relatively undisturbed and ecologically important areas in New York State.”
The report also noted that U.S. Department of the Interior guidance calls for locating wind turbines away from wetlands while the Mad River proposal includes turbines near wetlands.
“When you see this forest from the air, as we did earlier this year, you can appreciate the amount of water that is there and wonder at the adverse impacts of turning it into an industrial energy facility,” said Bob Keller, Land Trust board chairman, in a release.
In January, the Town of Worth submitted 50 questions and concerns to the state regulators regarding the proposed wind farm project. Concerns included dealing with fires within turbine housings, the impact of new roads and just how the turbines might affect the ability of helicopters, including those used in search and rescue missions, to fly in the area.
An Avangrid spokesperson tells CNYBJ in an email that the state’s Article 10 permitting process, used for reviewing power-plant proposals, is “one of the most rigorous” and Avangrid invites Tug Hill Land Trust to participate in the process.
“Wind farms have historically been compatible with active working landscapes that support multiple uses, as this property currently does, but we look forward to the environmental studies conducted in accordance with the Article 10 process,” the spokesperson says. “They’ll detail what, if any, impacts this project may have, and with state oversight, how best to avoid or mitigate those concerns.”
While noting that wind energy is “largely expected to lower or reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic effects to selected wildlife populations from unmitigated climate change,” the white paper’s conclusion states that “little consideration seems to have been given to protecting or even thinking about protecting “core forest” compartments within the WoodWise property that might be ecologically sensitive, or dealing with potential forest fragmentation issues.”
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