HOUNSFIELD – Discussions pertaining to a cable that will transfer electricity from the controversial Galloo Island Wind project to the electric grid drew fewer arguments and more inquiries from residents Tuesday.
Apex Clean Energy plans to erect 30 turbines on Galloo Island and other components for its 109-megawatt project, but in order to bring the electricity from the facility to the grid, it will install a 33-mile-long underwater transmission line connecting a substation it will build on the island to a substation it will construct in the city of Oswego.
The 138-kilovolt underwater cable will travel southeast around Little Galloo Island, then almost directly south toward the Oswego substation, 110 Mitchell St.
Gregory Liberman, senior project manager from consulting firm EDR, said a review concluded ice-scouring should not affect the cable because of Lake Ontario’s depth.
“In addition, there will be no effects to aquatic vegetation, and the line, the route rather, has been established to avoid areas of significant coastal wildlife,” Mr. Liberman said. “There are areas of significant coastal wildlife mapped by the (state) Department of Environmental Conservation in Oswego, but they’re west of this particular cable route. So the siting of this is taking into account a variety of factors.”
The developer and state officials hosted a 90-minute meeting at the town hall pertaining to the cable, which is undergoing a state review separate from the wind farm itself. The room remained quiet throughout much of the presentation as 20 to 30 attendees watched the presenters.
Neil T. Habig, senior director of project development for Apex, and Mr. Liberman described the construction of the line, which is expected to weigh more than 4,000 tons.
Workers will bore holes in the island and mainland for the cable using horizontal drilling, which Mr. Liberman said should prevent adverse effects on shoreline vegetation. Mr. Habig said trenches will be dug to hold the line in sections of lake bed that are less than 80 feet deep, while the rest of the line will lay atop the lake floor.
Vessels traveling into the lake from the St. Lawrence Seaway may be able to surface lay as much as seven miles of cable per day, Mr. Liberman said.
“Therefore, we’re not talking a very extended or prolonged construction sequence,” he said. “It’s actually a rapid process.”
Resident questions primarily focused on construction practices for the line and substations as well as their proximity to ecological and historic resources.
Elaine J. Scott, recording secretary for the Henderson Historical Society, asked whether the cable would have adverse effects on the shipwrecks in the lake. Mr. Liberman said state officials reviewed the cable’s path to ensure it would be located away from the shipwrecks.
Dean Whitmer, president of the Henderson Business and Community Council, questioned whether the heat emitted from the electric cable would harm fish, to which Mr. Liberman said that according to several studies analyzing other underwater power cables, the heat should dissipate quickly enough before harming aquatic life.
Gail Smith, Clayton, asked whether the developer plans to use blasting during construction and what safety protocols would be established to prevent accidents between vessels and fishermen or pleasure craft. Mr. Habig said his firm has not planned to conduct any blasting, and that safety protocols would be in place during construction.
“So there will be a notice to mariners during the operation. There will be navigational flags on the vessel. There will be patrol boats around the vessel,” Mr. Habig said.
Officials opened the floor for public comment during the second session of the meeting, which garnered mixed responses of support and opposition.
Claudia J. Maurer, Henderson, said she feared the cable could pose health threats to fish by kicking up contaminated sediment in the lake bed.
Mr. Whitmer and Susan VanBenschoten, Henderson, both expressed concerns about the heat emitted from the cable harming fish populations, despite Mr. Liberman’s assertions, with Mrs. VanBenschoten citing the economic boon fishing provides to waterfront communities.
“When the fishing is good, it’s a tremendous asset to our shoreline communities,” Mrs. VanBenschoten said.
Town Supervisor Timothy W. Scee recounted the town of Henderson’s opposition toward a former proposed wind farm on Galloo Island having overhead cables in Henderson and the former project’s inability to connect to transmission facilities in Watertown. Mr. Scee then asked the administrative law judges at the hearing how the developer could transmit power to the electric grid if not through an underwater transmission cable.
“I don’t know what else we could offer,” he said.
Administrative law judges explained the review process for most large-scale electric and gas transmission lines including Apex’s transmission line: the Article VII review.
Judge James A. Costello said a developer must submit a formal application that must be deemed sufficient by the commission. Apex’s application was deemed complete in July. Then, a series of public information and statement hearings, evidentiary hearings, briefings and possible site visits would follow before the commission makes a decision. The state also names parties to participate in the review and awards intervenor funds for them to hire experts.
Before the commission can make a decision, Mr. Costello said it must ensure any transmission line will have minimal effects on agricultural lands, farming operations, wetlands, parks and rivers.
“We are now at the process where public statement hearings are being held,” Mr. Costello said.
Developer and state officials will hold another information and public comment session at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. respectively, today at Oswego City Hall, 13 W. Oneida St. Anyone who cannot attend may also provide comments online, by calling 1-800-335-2120, or emailing them to email@example.com.