OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The Oswego County Legislature voted Thursday to oppose a New York Power Authority project that would locate dozens of huge wind turbines in Lake Ontario.
The plan also calls for erecting power lines throughout parts of the county to deliver the power downstate.
The legislators stressed that they aren’t against alternative energy sources or local job creation. However, Oswego County would receive no tax benefits from the project, it would only create a dozen or so permanent jobs and other areas of the state would receive the energy benefits.
After approximately two hours of public comment from nearly 30 speakers and a failed attempt to table the resolution, the measure was approved 20-4-1.
Legislators Mike Kunzwiler, Doug Malone, Jake Mulcahey and Amy Tressider voted against the resolution. Legislator Bob Hayes was absent.
Approving opposition to the project would be “an injustice to the people who elected us,” Mulcahey said prior to the vote.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel comfortable opposing a project that we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know exactly what it entails,Ã¢â‚¬Â he added. “We need jobs, we need tax relief.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This body should be encouraging and looking at ways to develop,Ã¢â‚¬Â Kunzwiler said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We could vote this down today and guess what? It could happen anyway. So why donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t we become proactive and set the standard and make the parameters of how we want this molded in Oswego County.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He suggested trying to get a host benefits package as part of the project.
“There is virtually no local control over this project, including where the power that is produced goes,” said Legislator Jack Proud. “We are in the 11th hour of a fast track project. We didn’t get informed about it until late, the timetables are already almost upon us and decisions will be made by people that we have no control over very soon.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The only bit of local control the NYPA chairman offered was stating that if local communities don’t want this, they don’t have to have it.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now we’re at the 11th hour in this project. We did not bring this about. We did not bring about the fact that all of the information of the project has not been out,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. “The information hasn’t been out because they haven’t issued it. There hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been enough time to deliberate. We don’t have time to; the only thing we can do is exercise our local control and say Ã¢â‚¬Ëœno!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ We need to say no to this proposal today to protect our area and to make sure that we are not exploited by the giants of this new industry and our own New York State Power Authority.”
The public weighed in with pros and cons regarding the proposal.
Dick Drosse of Minetto said the environment and economy of the county are entwined with the wind farm proposal.
“There are certain issues that I think need to be discussed,” he said.
One was what are the boundaries of the exclusion zones? Is it around the whole wind farm or each individual wind turbine?
The fishing industry brings in millions of dollars for the county. This project could be detrimental to that, he added.
Drosse also questioned the environmental impact the wind turbines could have.
Dawn Holynski of the Town of Richland said she isn’t opposed to alternative energy.
“However, I am opposed to wind turbines in Lake Ontario,” she said. “I bet everyone here has boasted to others about the beautiful sunsets that we photograph so often on the lake. I look at wind turbines in the lake as an obstacle.”
The proposed exclusion zone is so wide, it affects many small businesses including marinas, clubs, public and private beaches, campgrounds, Derby Hill Bird Observatory and more, she continued.
“Small businesses will be adversely affected,” she said. “In our community, we depend a great deal on tourism. I don’t believe these turbines are going to attack tourists. How long can someone stand there and stare at a wind turbine before the novelty wears off?”
Jim Jerome’s family has owned property on Rainbow Shores for 65 years.
“Everything man has touched on the lake, there has been no improvement; in fact, man has never been able to improve on Mother Nature. I doubt that it will in this case,” he said. “Please, don’t allow our pristine environment to get prostituted in the name of this wind farm. All we have left up there is our beauty and our lake, New York State and the federal government have run off all the jobs we had for businesses up there. This would be the nail in the coffin in my estimation.”
Al Thompson, council representative for the Carpenters Local 747, agreed there were many concerns with the project.
“We do need projects in some sort like this. I’d ask this legislature to please review this and table this resolution to get more information from NYPA.
Gary Toth, of Mexico, said the lake is very important to him.
“It’s a beautiful lake and I hold it very dear. But the one thing that I have to stand for also is I am the retired business manager for Carpenters 747 Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ everybody talks about temporary jobs, those jobs are very important to the trades people of Oswego County. There is an economic impact to county as far as jobs,” he said.
He agreed the resolution should be tabled for more information, and maybe get a community benefit agreement built into the project.
Scriba resident Heidi Hartwich also urged the legislature to table the matter.
Rhea Jezer of SUNY ESF said she is bothered by the lack of the inclusion by the residents in the project.
She said she brings about 1,000 people to view the wind farms in Madison County.
“They are very pretty. They’re not ugly things. I know that many, many other tourists will come to see this wind farm,” she said. “You just have to make sure that the site is right, make sure that you know what is happening and be sure that everything is protected.”
Dick Henry said there would be some short-term advantages from the jobs but the potential long-term loss isn’t being considered.
“We’re looking at no benefits from this power, it’s being sent elsewhere. Once it’s built, it’s going to be out there forever as a monument to whatever,” he said. “Anything that we put, man-made, in the lake, ends up being a big problem.”
“We held our board meeting Tuesday night. We unanimously passed a resolution opposing this particular project,” said Barry Ormsby, a Jefferson County legislator. “It was pretty vague and sketchy as to how many jobs would actually be local jobs in this project.”
“We don’t really know how it’s going to affect the fish, how it’s going to affect property values,” Lisa Giddon pointed out. “Let’s bring this to the community, let’s get more information. Diversifying our economy, diversifying our tax base, making sure that more people can work to add to our tax base is something that Oswego County really needs.”
Oswego County has the potential to be an innovator, she added. The county could set the model to make projects like this benefit the community, she said.
Tim Braun, a SUNY Oswego biology professor, lives in Oswego’s Second Ward. He said the legislators need all of the data before making a decision.
“You need to consider this a little bit more before we hang a sign out in front of Oswego that says: ‘ Wind Energy Need Not Apply,'” he said.
Debbie Jones said her mother owns a small marina on the inlet to Sandy Pond. The wind farm would be bad for the boaters and bad for business, she said.
“Tourists come here to see our sunsets. People may come here temporarily to see windmills,” she said “We will loose businesses; jobs; sales and property taxes will go down.”
Kestas Bendinskas, associate professor of chemistry at SUNY Oswego, pointed out that the newer generation of windmills don’t kill birds. He also suggested that the wind farm could be placed near the nuclear power plants “where boating is prohibited anyway.”
“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not ‘what’ we do. It’s ‘how’ we do it,” he told the legislators. “You can direct how it is done so that it benefits everybody. There are some scare tactics being used here, and I disapprove of it.”
Phil MacArthur of Oswego said he agreed with all of the previous speakers.
“So, I find myself feeling strongly both ways,” he said, adding, “This appears to be a proposal that is begging to be tabled for further information, further study. To close the door and turn the lock on wind energy doesn’t seem like an appropriate measure for you to take.”
Wind, solar and hydro power are the way of the future, his wife, June, added.
She questioned the comments about the exclusion zone, pointing out that in Florida you can fish right around the towers.
There were a lot of “maybes” connected with the proposal, David DePasquale noted.
“The question that comes to my mind is where is the power going to go? Is the only benefit going to be jobs? Has anyone here not paid a $400 heating bill? We send some much power out of this beautiful town, this jewel, already to many different places where the weather is much warmer than this,” he said. “If we do need to make power here, let’s keep the power here and get an advantage from that. If that cannot be done, I don’t see what the advantage is for us.”
Nora Heidlebaugh of Oswego agreed the resolution was “begging to be tabled.”
“All the information just is not in yet,” she said. “There has not been time for adequate consultation with all the people who should have been consulted. I don’t see the urgency, why not table this?”
A resident of Henderson Harbor told the legislators he loves the lake “from the very bottom of my heart.”
His town has been fighting with the developers who want to put turbines in his area. They are not nice people to deal with, he added.
“We are struggling to survive. We are dependent on our seasonal businesses, tourism, camping, fishing. It’s a big lake; we need to cooperate. What happens anywhere on the eastern end can be seen for miles,” he said. “It is an abomination to think about destroying this area.”
Karl Williams, the president of the Henderson Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce, urged the legislators to not accept the proposal from NYPA.
“These proposals, these windmills are vast. The project has not been thought through and the owner and leader of the project is a state authority,” he said. “They will pay no taxes. Yet they will unleash between 15 and 30 developers on your communities. They will make promises that they can’t keep and they’re going to divide you like you’ve never been divided before. That’s what they did in Jefferson County.”
He called the lake a national treasure enjoyed by more than just the people who live here all year.
Despite saying there is no project, NYPA has sent out RFPs (requests for proposals) that are due back in June, Williams pointed out. Construction is going to begin in 2011, he added.
“This project is well on its way,” he said.
“I don’t know why we’re taking about this here because it is not power for us, it’s power for downstate,” added another Pulaski resident. “We’re not getting anything out of it.”
She said she would rather look at a sunset over the lake because “I don’t get a big joy out of looking at the turbines up at Tug Hill.”
Roberta French of Sandy Creek said not enough research has been done.
“We are being used as guinea pigs,” she said.
Tom Muroski of Oswego said people have to drive more than 20 miles to find a public beach because so many power generating facilities are located on the shoreline.
Kevin Stevens of Oswego pointed out that the red lights (from towers on the Canadian side of the lake that some speakers referred to as a problem) were probably as big as the North Star in the night sky.
“That’s not a big detriment to me,” he said, adding that if people can’t see the sunset from one spot on the lake, they can go to another spot.
“Most of the people who own property along the lake won’t let you swim in their front yard,” he said. “That’s why there are no public beaches within 20 miles.”
If the legislators don’t start thinking progressively, the economic situation in the county won’t get better, it will get worse, he said.
“There needs to be more jobs created,” he said. “If you want to put one of those windmills in my back yard, I’ll take it.”