Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve C. Shuff has joined a local school board, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and several other parties seeking intervention status in the Ohio Power Siting Board’s upcoming hearings over the proposed 85-turbine Seneca Wind project.
In his petition, filed Nov. 15, the judge said he is a lifelong Seneca County resident who lives within the project area, and has a financial interest in the Ironwood Steakhouse at the Mohawk Golf and Country Club, 4399 S. State Rt. 231, Tiffin. He also stated he is a longtime member of that country club. Both are within or abut the project area.
He said in his petition he “intends to produce as a witness one of the leading experts in the field of wildlife management who has spent over 32 years as a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.”
“Shuff asserts that the Board should do no harm to the residents living in the proposed project [area],” the petition states.
From 1978 to 1988, the decade leading up to his election to the bench, Judge Shuff served as Seneca County prosecutor.
He stated in his petition he “has important interests to protect in this proceeding,” including excessive noise, strobe-like shadow flicker, “marring of local viewsheds,” negative impacts on property values, and deaths of migratory birds, bald eagles, and bats. He adds he wants to help protect against an “unconstitutional taking of property by the applicant.”
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the largest birding group based in northwest Ohio, likewise filed for intervention status on Nov. 15. Forty to 50 of its 2,000 members live in Seneca County, according to the group, which disputes the validity of studies claiming there will be no significant impact on avian creatures or other forms of wildlife.
The group sponsors the 10-day birding festival known as the Biggest Week in American Birding, which it said has drawn 75,000 birders from 45 states and 22 countries for birding activities. Studies show that festival has contributed millions of dollars to northwest Ohio’s ecotourism industry.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farm group, said in its motion filed Nov. 13 it is not seeking intervention status to support or oppose the project per se. But it said it represents hundreds of Seneca and Sandusky county families, many involved in farming or agribusiness activities from food processing to biofuel production and greenhouse operations.
“Farm Bureau members support a diversified energy portfolio, including renewable energy sources such as effective wind energy development,” its motion states. “Farmers engaged in wind leasing agreements want to make sure that construction activities on their property adhere to procedures ensuring soil and water conservation as well as air quality.
The Seneca County Board of Education, which last week voted unanimously to intervene, said in its petition it wants to be part of the proceedings “on the grounds that it has extensive interest in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the district’s students and staff, and an interest in the project’s potential impact on property development and valuation within the district which directly affects a primary source of the district’s funding.”
Forty-nine of the 85 turbines are to be erected within the boundaries of that school district, with 16 of them built within two miles of the district’s K-12 building.
“The District has a real and substantial interest in protecting its students and staff from potentially adverse impacts on their health, safety, and welfare while they [are] at school or participating in school services and programs,” the petition states. “In addition, because the district relies on property taxes as its primary source of funding, the potential impacts on residential, commercial and industrial development and property values within the district are of great interest and importance to the district.”
Seneca County’s Scipio, Reed, Venice, and Eden townships have filed for intervention, as have more than 60 residents in a separate filing.
The siting board is expected to hear arguments in early 2019.
Seneca Wind is one of two 200-megawatt wind farms planned primarily for Seneca County, the other being Apex Clean Energy’s Republic Wind. Part of Seneca Wind goes into Sandusky County’s York Township.
Apex last Thursday unveiled plans for an even larger project, the 300-megawatt Emerson Creek wind farm, which it wants to build primarily in Huron and Erie counties, with three of about 84 turbines to be placed in Seneca County. Plans for another Apex project, the 300-megawatt Honey Creek wind farm, are expected to be unveiled soon. It would be built mostly in Crawford County, with some turbines in Seneca County.
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