MASSENA — Wildlife that currently inhabit a parcel of land where a proposed solar farm will be located will still have a place to gather. But it just won’t be on the solar farm property, which will be surrounded by a 6- to 7-foot-high chain-link fence.
That was one of the topics addressed during this week’s virtual open house to discuss the construction of a solar farm in the towns of Brasher, Norfolk and Massena.
One of the questions posed during the presentation was if the proposed project area would be available to wildlife such as deer and turkey. The proposed project area is 2,200 acres, and about 961 acres would be used for the actual solar facility.
Bill Boer, environmental services manager for NextEra Energy Resources LLC, said that, for code and safety reasons, they planned to put the chain-link fencing around the property.
“Those areas will not be available for larger species such as deer or turkey,” he said.
He said that as part of the ecological studies in the application process, they will need to assess that there are available travel corridors for a species to pass. Among those reviewing the application will be the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“While they won’t have that access to the area where the project is, the greater 2,000-plus acre area that we’re assessing will still be available outside the fence line and will have travel corridors available for the species to continue to move around,” Mr. Boer said.
He said white tail deer and turkeys in particular were resilient, and taking away a portion of their habitat was not expected to impact them.
Another participant wondered if livestock grazing could be accommodated once the facility was built.
“Outside that fence line, the landowner has the right to continue to use their land as they see fit. That can potentially be used for agricultural purposes as well,” Mr. Boer said.
Kris Scornavacca, the project developer, said environmental and land use evaluations have already been underway.
“Some of you might have seen some of our contractors and some of our team members coming into the area over the past six or eight or 10 months, doing evaluations of the land in the area from an environmental and land use perspective. We’ve been doing some work locally on the land that’s in the project area,” he said.
He said the evaluation was to look at any environmental constraints so they could avoid any negative environmental impact during the construction and operation of the facility. The evaluation also takes local laws and local considerations into account, he said.
If permanent wetland disturbances occur to state-regulated wetlands or exceed a disturbance area threshold for federally regulated wetlands, then wetland mitigation is required. Mitigation requirements could include on-site compensatory mitigation, off-site compensatory mitigation in a nearby location and/or compensatory mitigation through an in-lieu-fee program.