Last month, the Roaring Brook industrial wind project received virtually its last needed approval with construction to begin later this year.
The project will result in 20 wind towers, each several times the height of Watertown’s tallest buildings, topped by flashing red lights, being built in the vast forest, bigger than Fort Drum, which makes up the center of the Tug Hill region – the heart of Tug Hill.
The project will be built several miles southwest of Lowville on top of the Tug Hill plateau, home of the third largest forest in the state (the Adirondacks and Catskills are the others), containing pristine wetlands and the heaviest snows east of the Rockies.
Its shallow, wet soils give rise to three of the streams most important to Tug Hill and New York:
Deer River, Roaring Brook and East Branch of Fish Creek.
East Branch of Fish Creek is especially important for fishing, a water supply for the city of Rome and the major source of clean water supporting Oneida Lake, a major sport fishery and largest lake entirely within the state.
While some of the heart of Tug Hill forest is pristine – its wetlands, headwater streams and a smattering of old growth forest – most of it is working forest.
The land where the wind project will be built has been heavily logged for years.
Yet heavily logged land can recover over time, as the woods of Tug Hill and the Adirondacks attest.
The same cannot be said for forest land converted to an industrial use with massive towers and major roads.
And the Roaring Brook wind project site is surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of recovering forest, land important to water quality and much of it vital to hunting, fishing and recreation:
Tug Hill Wildlife Management Area, Lesser Wilderness State Forest, Whetstone State Park and the Nature Conservancy’s Tug Hill Conservation Area, largest Conservancy protected land in the state.
Yet virtually none of this – designated headwaters areas, surrounding protected and public lands – got any mention by the developers in the environmental assessment they prepared and which received only a few weeks at best for public comment.
It is clear those of us who know and love the heart of Tug Hill – Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Trout Unlimited, other towns of the Tug Hill region among them – were not vigilant enough.
We have our work cut out for us if the rest of the heart of Tug Hill is to remain the birthright of Tug Hillers, an undeveloped forest that provides unparalleled opportunities for hunting, fishing, recreation and getting away from it all.
Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust supports the development of renewable energy but believes projects need to be properly sited.
The Tug Hill region has lots of wind energy projects already and more on the way.
Only two of those are proposed in the heart of Tug Hill.
We think that’s the wrong place.
The writer is an executive committee member of the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust.
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