SACKETS HARBOR – The developer that left the required reviews needed to build a wind farm on Galloo Island has not given up on the endeavor.
Apex Clean Energy in February withdrew its applications for a state permits needed to erect its 108-megawatt Galloo Island Wind project, which were certificates of environmental compatibility and public need through the state Article 10 and VII reviews.
Neil T. Habig, senior director of project development for Apex, however, wrote in an emailed statement that the firm has kept exploring the prospect of building a wind farm on the island in the town of Hounsfield.
“(Apex) continues to collect wildlife and meteorological data on Galloo Island and maintains an interest in developing a wind energy facility on the island,” he wrote.
The developer asked consultant Western EcoSystems Technology Inc., or WEST, to perform aerial helicopter surveys with a 10-mile buffer around Galloo Island to identify and monitor bald eagle nests, according to documentation from March 12 sent to the Department of Environmental Conservation. A copy of the document was provided to the Times.
The file reported that the 10-mile buffer for helicopter surveys would include Galloo, Little Galloo, Calf, Stony, Hoveys and Association islands, as well as “small islands and peninsulas northeast of Galloo Island near Chaumont Bay.”
Mr. Habig notified the DEC about the survey work, and an avian consultant from the department described the restrictions for aerial surveys for eagles nests, according to copies of emails dated March 12 and March 15 provided to the Times.
“(The department) is aware of ongoing survey work on Galloo Island,” the DEC wrote in a statement. “A permit is not necessary for eagle nest surveys as long as the survey adheres to the appropriate guidelines. In this instance, DEC informed the consulting firm of these guidelines.”
The surveying conduct by WEST, which previously assisted Apex, has drawn consternation from opponents of the developer’s previous project, including a former DEC fishery biologist concerned about bald eagles on and around the island.
Clifford P. Schneider, Wellesley Island, filed a complaint with the DEC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service April 29, calling the firm’s decision to use a helicopter to conduct survey during breading season “unprofessional and irresponsible.” He requested an investigation into the work to ensure proper procedures were followed.
Mr. Schneider wrote that he and Kathryn A. Muschell spotted bald eagles nesting on the island from boat on April 18 and 21, but after hearing about the helicopter surveys being conducted on April 23, they revisited the island on April 28 and, after a couple of hours of monitoring, did not see them. He said to the Times they also boated to the area on April 30 and didn’t see eagles.
The avian advocate wrote in his letter that the firm could have used another method of identifying eagle’s nests, particularly by requesting assistance from the island’s caretaker. The firm conducted on-ground surveys for Apex between 2017 and 2018.
Mr. Schneider told the Times the developer already knew one nest existed on the island, the one omitted from its Article 10 application because it showed no signs of breeding in 2017. The omission prompted an extension of the Article 10 review. He also said he questioned what, if any, agency required the developer to perform surveys.
“It’s against state and federal regulations to harass eagles on a nest, and it’s considered a taking,” he said. “My belief is that the helicopter and the way it was operated force those birds to leave the nest.”
The fish and wildlife service did not return request for comment.
“(The DEC) has received a formal complaint regarding the survey work,” the DEC wrote. “DEC is investigating the complaint and cannot comment further.”
Apex had proposed a wind farm with 32 turbines that would connect to a substation in Oswego via a 30-mile underwater transmission cable, but cut the number of turbines to 24 before withdrawing its applications.
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