Save Upstate New York Formed to Oppose EcoGen Wind Farm Project

Concerned raised include the shadow flicker of the huge blades, the effect on the natural beauty of the region and anecdotal reports of failed property sales due to the turbines.

Published: 24-May-2005

tsburgh -- Former state gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano has formed an agency designed to assist communities opposed to wind farms.

Golisano announced the formation of Save Upstate New York at a standing-room-only meeting in Prattsburgh Central School on the proposed $80 million, 53-turbine EcoGen wind farm project in the towns of Prattsburgh and Italy.

"I have to tell you I was inspired to do this before I came here tonight," Golisano said. "Now, after listening to nearly two hours of comments, I'm really inspired. And I will do everything I can do to help these people."

Golisano said the new agency would focus on developing volunteers, a public relations-media campaign and "providing litigation if it becomes necessary."

A Victor resident, Golisano said he owns property in the Town of Naples, which is reportedly within view of some of the EcoGen towers.

"When you think about this, it's really about entrepreneurship, isn't it?" said Golisano, a Rochester-area businessman. "In general, that's a noble enterprise ... when nobody else gets hurt."

Golisano also called for a public referendum on the wind farm project.

"Why is it nobody wants public referendums anymore?" Golisano said. "You are denying the voices and knowledge of the people."

The 2002 opponent of Gov. George Pataki made his remarks after two hours of comments during the three-hour meeting attended Monday night by the Steuben County Industrial Develop-ment Agency executive board. The meeting is part of an extensive environmental review by SCIDA, lead agent for the EcoGen project.

Representatives of a rival wind farm project in the area, Global Winds/Prattsburgh LLC also attended the meeting

on the 1,100-page draft generic environmental impact study by EcoGen.

Comments at the meeting will be included in a final environmental study on the EcoGen project.

"This is not question and answer, this is not a debate," said James Sherron, SCIDA executive director. "This is an opportunity to help the IDA better understand the issues."

The Prattsburgh wind farms were first proposes more than three years ago by Global Winds and EcoGen. Both developers want to build mammoth 400-foot wind turbines along the hilly ridges in Prattsburgh and the Town of Italy, in Yates County. However, the nearby electrical power grid can only accept energy from 50 turbines.

Wind turbines, which tower higher than the Statue of Liberty, automatically require thorough environmental studies on their impact on the natural environment and their host communities -- and provide ways to successfully reduce the negative effects.

Supporters of the projects say the wind farms will create jobs, provide renewable energy, bring in revenues and increase the tax base in the small, rural community located in northern Steuben.

Opponents argue turbines supply minimal renewable energy, will significantly and permanently alter the natural landscape, lower property values and pose a real threat to the "health, safety and welfare" of residents and the natural habitat.

The lengthy draft study under discussion Monday night apparently did little to change opponents' minds as dozens of residents from Prattsburgh, Italy, Springwater in Livingston County and Naples in Ontario County attacked the study.

One chief concern revolved around proposed setbacks of 400-feet from property lines and 1,000-feet from residences -- something residents said was far short of state Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines.

The purpose of setbacks is to prevent the towers from intruding on neighboring land, reduce the danger of ice throws, and mitigate the sound of the rotating blades.

Other concerns included the shadow flicker of the huge blades, the effect on the natural beauty of the region and anecdotal reports of failed property sales due to the turbines.

Advocates for Prattsburgh President Al Wordingham also questioned the safety of the technology of the relatively new field, citing the recent, dramatic breakdown of turbines in Oklahoma and Illinois.

But some residents questioned the right of the windfarm opponents to represent the community.

Harold Green, a Prattsburgh resident since 1959, said he recognized very few people at the meeting.

Green said he knew people living near wind turbines who were "very happy" with them.

"I also have to compliment (windfarm opponents) on your research," he said. "You've really taken apart this study."

SCIDA will accept written comments on the draft study until June 17, at which time it will launch a final environmental impact study.

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