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Personal impressions from the Maple Ridge wind farm bus tour

Each time I've visited the Maple Ridge Wind Farm I've become more depressed about wind energy development. I could never seem to reconcile the professed benefits of these projects with their obvious adverse impacts. But today I learned the most valuable reason to oppose this industry. The Maple Ridge project site is 12 miles long by 3 miles wide. Up and down the roads we went today and I viewed this industrial power facility once again. In viewing the entire expanse of impacted area I couldn't help but notice that there was no sense of a living community - no routine life. No people walking their dogs, no hikers, no bicyclers, no children laughing and playing (school was out), no clothes hanging out to dry, no school buses, no dogs barking, and very few birds, no one on their four wheelers on their own lands enjoying the open air. There were no roadside stands selling pumpkins. The serenity of rural community life that we all know and love here in northern Jefferson County was strangely absent. In its stead, we saw massive machines everywhere we looked, on both sides of the road. This was Bill Moore's world and PPM literally owned it all.

PPM Energy sponsored a bus trip today, October 16, that was open to all interested members of the public. The trip was coordinated through Clayton Township.

The Bus Ride to Maple Ridge
We left the Clayton Arena at 9:30 am this morning. In all, there were about thirty-one (31) residents from the townships of Lyme, Orleans, Clayton and Hammond who took advantage of this tour. I chose to ride the bus while eight (8) others drove their own vehicles.

PPM offered us a very comfortable coach bus at their expense. Bud Baril, of Clayton's Planning Board, was the only official representative from Clayton Township. This was to be expected as officials from the Townships of Clayton and Orleans, and the Horse Creek Wind Farm committee had already been given a personal tour of Maple Ridge -- a tour that included visits to homes and interviews with the locals. Bud Baril told us on the bus that he had been served many wonderful pies during his visits. He also informed us that today's tour was part of Clayton's ongoing educational experience for residents to get a close up view of the turbines. It was our opportunity to speak directly with PPM representatives. We were encouraged to ask questions.

Bud also asked Twila Cushman, assistant to the Clayton-Orleans Horse Creek Wind Farm committee, to distribute cards for residents to list questions we might want Clayton's Planning Board... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

PPM Energy sponsored a bus trip today, October 16, that was open to all interested members of the public. The trip was coordinated through Clayton Township.

The Bus Ride to Maple Ridge
We left the Clayton Arena at 9:30 am this morning. In all, there were about thirty-one (31) residents from the townships of Lyme, Orleans, Clayton and Hammond who took advantage of this tour. I chose to ride the bus while eight (8) others drove their own vehicles.

PPM offered us a very comfortable coach bus at their expense. Bud Baril, of Clayton's Planning Board, was the only official representative from Clayton Township. This was to be expected as officials from the Townships of Clayton and Orleans, and the Horse Creek Wind Farm committee had already been given a personal tour of Maple Ridge -- a tour that included visits to homes and interviews with the locals. Bud Baril told us on the bus that he had been served many wonderful pies during his visits. He also informed us that today's tour was part of Clayton's ongoing educational experience for residents to get a close up view of the turbines. It was our opportunity to speak directly with PPM representatives. We were encouraged to ask questions.

Bud also asked Twila Cushman, assistant to the Clayton-Orleans Horse Creek Wind Farm committee, to distribute cards for residents to list questions we might want Clayton's Planning Board to raise. What a joke! We learned early on with the draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) that public comment pertaining to this project was not welcome and largely ignored.

Officials from the Township of Orleans chose to drive their own vehicles. Unfortunately, they missed Bud Baril's speeches on the bus. However, they were nicely represented by their Town Supervisor and members of the ZBA Board.

Hammond residents enlighten us that their proposed project will also be PPM Energy owned with at least fifty turbines, but still too early to be certain. We expect transmission issues to pose a problem in Hammond.

Even though there were only a small number of participants on the tour, we were a well-balanced group of individuals from the townships including a) planning board members from Clayton, Lyme, and Orleans; b) Town Supervisor from Orleans, c) participating and non-participating landowners from both Clayton and Orleans and, of course, d) Hammond Township representatives who are new to the world of industrial turbine proposals.

First Impressions
When we arrived at the site, THERE WAS NO WIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Turbines were visible from every direction and they were NOT moving. The few that were, seemed to be moving in slow motion. Every turbine faced north, contrary to PPM project manager Bill Moore's assertion that the wind profile for the area showed winds from the southeast.

This was my fifth visit to Maple Ridge to exactly the same locations we visited today. I have videos of these visits. The amount of noise and flicker observed during these previous trips was unbelievable. Today's visit was surreal: NO WIND -- NO NOISE, a first for me! I was stumped, shocked really. I've visited with residents at the site. I've stood in their front yards and listened as they explained how they try to handle the noise and the flicker problem. Even those on the tour who've visited before were troubled. We wondered how we could we ask questions about the ill-effects of turbine noise when there was no noise or spinning from the turbines. One had to laugh. It was clear to me and others on the trip that this visit was not representative of life under the Maple Ridge wind plant.

Meeting Farmer Burke
PPM invited residents from Maple Ridge (most now employed by PPM) and of course they were all happy with the facility. In retrospect, I suppose we shouldn't have expected anything else. Mr. Burke, the farmer who changed his career from agricultural farming to PPM employee, gave us the pitch about turbine profits. I hoped others on the trip didn't believe for a minute that they'd realize the same financial reimbursement or job opportunity as Burke. Admittedly, he was a good spokesperson for PPM and he will tell you he no longer has to push cow manure. His, I suppose, is a wonderful life.

He pointed out his home. "I live right there, the farm house next to the gazebo and staging site. There's no noise from these machines." I loved his response about shadow flicker - "it will only bother you if you let it". Most importantly, beside his once quaint home, there were huge turbine blades lying on the ground, unpaved roads, and massive amounts of cable all over the place -- and he loves it! He clearly represented the financial side of this industry. If you are the right resident in the complex, and given the right amount of money, you too can be bought out. It's just business.

As expected, PPM's sales speech was all about the financial benefits of an industrial wind farm, including increased tourism. I questioned why the majority of visitors came here and what percentage of those visitors were like me, folks who were facing a "wind proposal in their community". PPM employees were ready for my questions and the answers were saccharine sweet. Still, Mr. Burke, like others with turbines on their land, admitted it's all about the money.

PPM's Mr. Bill Moore
My goal today was specifically to meet and speak with Bill Moore, PPM's employee responsible for bringing the Maple Ridge project to the area. I had my chance. I wanted Mr. Moore to know that in the past six months since we first met him, back when ECCO was formed, that the residents of the townships of Clayton and Orleans along with other residents in neighboring townships were becoming much more educated and informed regarding installation of these machines in and around our homes. He and I discussed ECCOs presentation held in LaFargeville and I told him ECCO was very disappointed that PPM refused to be a participant -- we had an excellent turnout. He was taken back - "you asked us?"

Back when we were organizing the event, I spoke with PPM's Dan Murdie. Mr. Murdie thought it was an excellent idea and encouraged me to speak with Clayton Councilman Justin Taylor as well as Bud Baril, which I did. Mr. Taylor said they would not participate; that they would do their own education. I explained to Mr. Moore that residents in these two townships have received no educational presentations by the town. And we now know that there is no intent to hold educational meetings. Instead, we're subjected to turbine committee discussions - discussions that permit NO public input and NO education materials -- just committee discussions.

I told Mr. Moore that we would like to hear from PPM, both landowners and residents, especially on construction issues. I explained that other townships that do not presently have proposed wind farms but will in the future are just as anxious for this information as we are. I told Mr. Moore that it's critical that ECCO share facts that are supported by documentation and reliable sources about industrial wind farms to all residents in Jefferson County and everyone needs to be informed. There is no comparison between the plateau of Maple Ridge's environment to our wetland and bedrock environment that we have in northern Jefferson County along the St. Lawrence River. Mr. Moore stated he wanted the opportunity to speak and that we should privately ask to have his company speak to residents at a community meeting or presentation. He also encouraged us to inform the town officials so they were aware that we made the request. It was a very long day...

Lasting Impressions
Each time I've visited the Maple Ridge Wind Farm I've become more depressed about wind energy development. I could never seem to reconcile the professed benefits of these projects with their obvious adverse impacts. But today I learned the most valuable reason to oppose this industry.

The Maple Ridge project site is 12 miles long by 3 miles wide. Up and down the roads we went today and I viewed this industrial power facility once again. In viewing the entire expanse of impacted area I couldn't help but notice that there was no sense of a living community - no routine life. No people walking their dogs, no hikers, no bicyclers, no children laughing and playing (school was out), no clothes hanging out to dry, no school buses, no dogs barking, and very few birds, no one on their four wheelers on their own lands enjoying the open air. There were no roadside stands selling pumpkins. The serenity of rural community life that we all know and love here in northern Jefferson County was strangely absent.

In its stead, we saw massive machines everywhere we looked, on both sides of the road. This was Bill Moore's world and PPM literally owned it all. There are no leaseholders here that will continue life for the next generation of citizens. There is no beauty here.

A woman on the tour asked me "Don't you think that children who grow up around these machines will stay here because they are use to it?"

I thought about it for a moment and I had to say no I don't. I told her this is an industrial complex; there is no fun here for children. Look around, all of this is owned by someone else - a foreign energy corporation. The residents may have a piece of paper, a deed, but it's only a piece of paper from what I could see. The land is no longer theirs but for that paper. I truly believe that every American's greatest achievement is to own his or her own piece of land. It's what gives us the ability to speak out. There is no option here to speak out, and those living in the area that have tried, have long given up.

She and I looked around together. We saw huge trucks on the road, constant work on the machines, equipment strewn everywhere - poles, wires, cables. There was no place for a ball field or for kids to play. Mr. Moore will tell you he doesn't even live nearby -- he lives in Massachusetts.

The woman seemed surprised by my answer - "I guess I never looked at it that way," she said. I felt sorry for her as she, too, has a very hard decision to make. As we drove out of the complex of turbines I could only imagine how the southern parts of the townships of Clayton and Orleans will look should the Horse Creek Wind Farm be constructed. That facility is proposed to have 62 towers standing 407-feet from base to blade tip. Our turbine setbacks are exactly the same distances as those at Maple Ridge and more than 1000 of my fellow residents will live under the blades. While I understand that Americans feel a need to do something regarding the fight against fossil fuels, installing giant industrial wind turbines -- hundreds at a time across square miles of New York's rural landscape -- is just plain wrong.

Ms. Booras-Miller is vice president of Environmentally Concerned Citizens Organization of Jefferson County (ECCO). ECCO advocates for policy and laws that will ensure a clean and healthful environment in and around Jefferson County.


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OCT 16 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/11549-personal-impressions-from-the-maple-ridge-wind-farm-bus-tour
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