BELLMONT –– Town officials were enthusiastic about the proposed construction of 29 wind turbines in their community when officials from EDP Renewables revived the long-dormant Jericho Rise wind farm project.
But the reality of the construction is causing some to rethink their initial enthusiasm.
Town Board member Wayne Rogers complained at a recent meeting that work is beginning too early in the morning and that construction material is being brought to the sites over roads that were never intended for that use.
Mr. Rogers complained that cement trucks are going to the sites where the turbines will be erected before 7 a.m., creating noise that is disturbing residents living nearby.
“This is a problem here,” Mr. Rogers said. “Windows are open. You know it is not what you want to hear.
“We are not talking about one or two trucks. It is numerous trucks. The other part of this is that also I wasn’t aware that cement trucks had an exception before 7 o’clock in the morning. When I spoke to (Sandra Sayyeau of GDH Consulting, the firm advising the town on the project), she said it was decided. When was this decided?” he asked.
The Town Board in the spring approved amendments to two local laws — one that limited the height of the wind turbines and one that restricted construction to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The amendment to the latter law gave EDP permission to work on the turbine sites between 5:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. –– although company representatives said the early-morning work would be done only in response to “unique conditions” created by the weather or other factors that would force them to work outside normal hours.
Mr. Rogers said Ms. Sayyeau told him the early starts are due to recent hot weather.
Mr. Rogers also raised concerns about the use of Chase Road to bring gravel to several of the turbine sites.
Contractors had originally said they would use Chase Road for only a few days, but “It’s been weeks. It’s been weeks,” Mr. Rogers said.
Bellmont Highway Superintendent Lee Davis echoed Mr. Rogers’ complaints about the use of Chase Road, a small rural road not built to handle heavy traffic.
“I don’t want to extract a pound of flesh here, but they have to use Route 11 as much as possible,” Mr. Davis said. The contractors were supposed to use only a portion of Chase Road when carrying full loads, but “somehow mysteriously that got changed,” he said.
Mr. Rogers said Ms. Sayyeau told him the plans were changed when the contractors learned about the closure of a portion of U.S. Route 11 while repairs are being made to the bridge carrying the highway over the Chateaugay River. “My God, they knew about the bridge bypass for a year,” Mr. Rogers said.
The state Department of Transportation announced plans to close the bridge in October 2014 and held a public hearing in December of that year. The highway was closed in early July, with traffic rerouted over county Route 24 and state Route 374, and is scheduled to reopen the Friday before Labor Day.
The planned revival of the Jericho Rise project, which had been on hiatus since 2009, was announced in November 2014.
Supervisor H. Bruce Russell said the town plans to erect “No Construction Vehicles” signs on Chase Road to eliminate the problem.
Mr. Rogers said he’s disappointed by interactions between town officials and EDP now that the preliminary work has been completed and construction is underway.
“Quite honestly, these people are not friendly people. They tell you one thing and they do what they want to do. They certainly are not friends,” Mr. Rogers said.