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Tug Hill alliance grows, secures funds for wind farm review

A local group advocating against wind farm development along the Tug Hill Plateau has multiplied its membership tenfold in recent months.

The Tug Hill Alliance for Rural Preservation was formed in July with only two members: Rebecca S. Sheldon, a part-time Harrisburg resident, and Heath L. Ash, Pinckney. Mr. Ash previous managed the Concerned Citizens of the Deer River Wind Energy Project group.

In three months, however, Mrs. Sheldon said they have grown their membership to 22 people from Lewis County and Lorraine, Jefferson County.

They were able to grow the organization through word of mouth, Mrs. Sheldon said. She made cold calls to prospective recruits she found through online comments about Avangrid Renewables’s Mad River and Deer River wind farms and Invenergy’s Number Three Wind Farm.

“We have 22 members and they do encompass the three different projects we’re involved in,” she said. “We’re always seeking new members.”

The alliance opposes the three wind-energy facilities undergoing the state Article 10 review process, which state officials use to determine whether to issue permits to large-scale energy projects.

The group fears increased wind farm construction along the Tug Hill will have adverse effects on water quality, wildlife and the aircraft and weather radar systems at Fort Drum and Montague respectively. Mrs. Sheldon, whose family’s property in Harrisburg would be surrounded by multiple projects, also worries about infrasound from the turbines causing migraines, dizziness and other health issues.

“Our lives are in turmoil over this,” she said.

The group plans to take active roles in state reviews for the three proposed wind projects, and has already secured funds to address one.

The state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment awarded the group $10,000 in the second round of intervenor funds for the Mad River Wind Farm review Oct. 2. The funds will allow the group to retain attorneys and other experts to raise concerns and describe studies they feel Avangrid should include in its official application.

The alliance previously wanted intervenor funds to finance its own study about how the proposed 350-megawatt project in the towns of Worth and Redfield could affect radar technology. After complaints from the developer and interest from the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, also known as Advocate Drum, in tackling the concern, however, the alliance decided to shift their focus to possible environmental issues.

The $10,000 awarded to the group, less than its previous $28,400 request, will allow it to retain the law firm Zoghlin Group and an environmental consultant. Mrs. Sheldon said her group plans to pursue intervenor funds for reviews of Invenergy’s Number Three Wind farm and Avangrid’s Deer River Wind Farm when they become available.

“Basically, we want to bring balance to the Article 10 process,” Mrs. Sheldon said. “People don’t look at the negatives.”

Advocate Drum was awarded $18,000, exceeding its initial $10,000 request, so the group could retain Zoghlin Group and a radar consultant.

“We’re still working through the details on how it could be used,” said Advocate Drum Executive Director Edward W. Keel.

The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust was the third and final recipient of intervenor funding Oct. 2.

The siting board awarded it $10,400 to retain three consultants from SUNY ESF to help address environmental concerns. The trust was previously awarded $15,000 in the first found intervenor funding, which also granted awards to Redfield and Worth, for legal and environmental experts.

“We’re pretty happy with receiving the award,” the trust’s executive director, Linda M. Garrett.