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Turbines in Lake Erie are irresponsible

These comments are in response to the Editor’s corner column (Dec. 11) where a discussion of current environmental threats to the health of Lake Erie includes the future possibility of offshore wind turbines. The column refers to the collaborative report, “Our Water, Our Future” issued by environmental groups centered in Erie, Pa. The report lists the top five threats to the lake. The perspective of many concerned citizens reveals that four of these relate negatively to placing wind turbines in the water.

The first threat, climate change, will not be mitigated by offshore turbines in our fresh water. The New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO) which oversees the power grid has documented the inability of wind projects in Western New York to contribute to state’s legislated emissions reduction goals.

The second reported concern for the lake’s future is pollution from oil, petrochemicals and fracked natural gas. The giant turbines contain hundreds of gallons of lubrication and hydraulic oils that are well known to leak. A wide variety of petrochemicals are used in the installation, operation and maintenance of wind turbines and their interconnecting transmission cables. Adding more of these to our drinking water is irresponsible whether by design of by mishap. Wind turbines are dependent on power from the grid which is increasingly generated by gas instead of coal. No gas equals no turbines.

The third listed threat from legacy pollution refers to the hundred years’ of industrial pollutants like PCBs and heavy metals which are now settled in the sediments on the lake’s bottom. Placing acres of concrete wind turbine bases and miles of interconnected transmission cables will stir up the protective sediments containing the pollutants and further threaten our drinking water. The trace pollutant PFNA recently detected in the drinking water in Mayville has been measured in Lake Erie fish and is also found in the sediments of the lake bed.

The fourth turbine-related hazard facing the lake’s health comes from invasive species. Studies show that fish such as perch and walleye are sensitive to the noise and vibrations created by wind turbines. Displacing these apex predator sportfish worth millions of dollars to our local economy will have unpredictable consequences leading to conditions favorable to invasion by non-native species.

An application for Lake Erie turbines and their accompanying environmental impact statements has not yet been submitted to NYS siting authorities. But the company Diamond Offshore Wind, a unit of Mitsubishi, Inc., is being encouraged to go forward by lobbying groups like Sierra Club and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The proposed Lake Erie offshore wind project near Cleveland, Ohio has been permitted for construction despite opposition from environmental groups concerned about its placement astride a major migratory bird route. Sierra Club voiced its support for the Ohio project as it has already done for New York’s Chautauqua and Erie County project. We must not assume that any environmental impact statements are more than a rubber stamp for this project. “Waiting for the studies” is simply acknowledging the lack of will to resist a purely political project intended to harm the interests of the lake and its dependents.

Diamond Wind made its initial request for connection to the state’s power grid in April 2019. They have told NYISO that their intention is to have the turbines operating by December, 2023. The transmission cable for the turbines offshore Chautauqua County will come to the Dunkirk substation. High voltage transmission cables carry their own hazards. It is advisable for the City of Dunkirk Zoning and Planning Boards and the Common Council to offer their due diligence in the matter of this transmission cable.

Let’s not allow Lake Erie to become a reservoir for more industrial waste and Albany’s destructive agenda.

Mark Twichell is a Fredonia resident.