REDFIELD — Local municipalities have responded to a preliminary scoping statement regarding the proposed Mad River Wind Farm, with officials largely in opposition to the development.
The Mad River Wind Farm is a proposed 350 MW wind power project located within the town of Worth in Jefferson County and town of Redfield in Oswego County. Atlantic Wind, the company proposing the development, said the preliminary layout of the Mad River Wind Farm consists of 88 utility-scale wind turbines.
Atlantic Wind is a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables, a company with wind farms scattered across the United States. Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Avangrid is part of the Iberdrola Group, a multinational company that operates in dozens of countries.
The towns of Redfield and Worth, members of the public, Oswego County and several other state and local entities submitted comments and concerns to state Department of Public Service (DPS) about the proposed wind farm.
In a press release, the town of Redfield said the wind project threatens the environment, economy, national security and health of area residents. The town said the facility would be constructed on protected wetlands and expressed concern about the risk of water contamination.
“Atlantic Wind intends to build its Mad River Wind facility atop the Tug Hill aquifer at the headwaters of the Salmon River, placing its massive turbines right beside creeks and streams,” the press release states. “The Tug Hill aquifer supplies drinking water to eleven municipalities and is the source for private drinking water wells serving residences, campgrounds and other facilities throughout Oswego, Jefferson and Oneida counties.”
There’s concern the project could have a “devastating effect” on property values and the local economy, the town said, noting the facility would be in the middle of land used for outdoor recreation activities that drive the area’s $40 million per year tourism industry, interfering with snowmobile trails, hunting, fishing and hiking.
Wind turbines pose a threat to the local environment and wildlife, the town said, adding the health impact on people is “even more alarming.” The town says studies have shown wind turbines can cause seizure, headaches and other health problems that reduce quality of life, and Atlantic Wind “flatly dismisses” those dangers.
Redfield officials also expressed concern the project could interfere with flight radar and air traffic control at Fort Drum, posing a safety and national security threat. Officials said the town is committed to protecting its residents, environment and local economy.
County officials added that it’s not uncommon for wind turbines to interfere with radar installations, and that part of effective emergency planning includes accurate weather forecasting due to storms and snowfall.
An Avangrid spokesperson said the company is proud of its track record of partnering with communities to deliver clean energy and local economic benefits. Communications Manager Paul Copleman said responsibly siting projects is an important part of the process and the company uses a science-based and transparent process informed by many voices.
“We will continue to work with the town to address concerns and questions throughout the development process,” Copleman said in an email. “We encourage parties to share concerns, in order to ensure that our studies and the permitting process can address them.”
Copleman said the town of Redfield’s press release “appears to jump to conclusions about the potential impacts” of the wind farm without evidence, and appears to “disregard the experience in hundreds of communities around the country that have enjoyed substantial local benefits from wind farms.”
The county’s letter to DPS addressed the potential negative impact on energy jobs in the county. Officials state that Avangrid should run econometric models to figure out the impact of added electric generating capacity, which is already produced in excess locally.
If the facility is constructed, the applicant should also ensure that public use for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, cross-county skiing and other outdoor activities is still allowed, county officials said. In addition, the applicant should prepare a reforestation plan to account for the trees removed, the letter stated.
A statement from the law firm representing the town of Worth outlined 50 comments from the municipality, many of them offering a dissenting opinion of the proposed project.
Among the potential issues included weather radar interference and the heavy reliance on the local volunteer fire department. Oswego County officials added that protective measures should be required, as there are no full-time fire departments in the vicinity of the facility.
Another comment from the town of Worth said the project should consider deploying fewer larger turbines to provide the same energy capacity without the need for as much space.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) submitted comments to DPS stressing the importance of an invasive species control plan, and that it includes a minimum of five-year post-construction monitoring.
Several of the bird species indentified as potentially occurring in the facility location are state-listed as threatened or endangered, according to the DEC.