OSWEGO COUNTY – At its final meeting of the year, Dec. 9, the County Legislature presented and passed a resolution opposing the siting of windmills in Lake Ontario, particularly the eastern shore.
The resolution lays out the legislature’s objections, concerns, and complaints with regard not only to windmills but also to the state’s siting process and study. The resolution makes both economic and environmental arguments in opposition to siting such windmills. Perhaps foremost among its complaints is that, according to the resolution, no governmental officials of any of the counties bordering Lake Ontario were consulted on the study. The almost year-long study is due to conclude this spring.
The following is a follow-up on last week’s presentation of the entire resolution along with comments from a town supervisor, the county administrator, and NYSERDA, the state agency overseeing the study on siting windmills in Lake Ontario.
At its November town board meeting, the town of Richland took up the issue. Town Supervisor Dan Krupke gave his thoughts on Richland’s position in a recent interview.
“The meeting in November was more of an informational meeting,” Krupke said. “We had a presenter via Zoom that presented and explained what they’re looking to do, what type of windmills and such that could be put up, etc. So, it was more of an informational session than anything, but I do know that, as a board, the general consensus is that we are opposed to any windmill on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario.
“Because of the fishing and such that we have here,” he continued, “we want to make sure that the fishing program isn’t interrupted. We know that the sanctuary for shipwrecks and such (the proposed National Marine Sanctuary), that they’re trying to get the national recognition for, we don’t want that to be interrupted. We see that as a future source of business. Diving and such may become more popular in the area because of the shipwrecks that have been identified in the lake on this side. We would definitely be opposed as a consensus. We haven’t actually voted on it, but as a consensus, and a general discussion, the board is opposed to windmills on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario.”
Nevertheless, the state may be able to site whatever it wants to despite local opposition.
“Right,” Krupke said, “because I think it’s Home Rule that’s overridden by the state. So, it would just be a matter of working with the state and expressing our concerns, and hopefully, they will listen to that. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot you can do when the state decides they want to do something, but we would certainly be working with the county in opposing it, similar to what Redfield did with the windmills that were proposed up in the Redfield area. They put a lot of effort into having it be opposed, and it looks like that project is shot down. So, that’s a good thing.
“I don’t think the board is a strong believer in windmills,” Krupke said. “I think that there’s other avenues of generating clean electricity, and windmills aren’t the only source of clean energy. With solar going up pretty rapidly in our township, and I’m sure other townships, that’s producing a clean source of energy, and, of course, nuclear power plants. We have those plants over there, and from what I’ve been told, their ability to start up and to generate, they can do it.”
Krupke also sees the economic benefits an increase in diving could bring to Richland and the county.
“You’ve got fishing charters that may not be as busy in the summer that could pick up and do scuba diving and such as another source of revenue for businesses to draw upon,” he said.
As a diver himself, Krupke has dived in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. But most of his diving, he said, has been in the Caribbean.
“You pay a fee to the municipality to dive,” he said, “because they are protected reefs that you dive in, and you pay a fee to keep them protected. So, it’s good. It’s good to see that. I’m not suggesting that we pay a fee. I’m just saying that it’s nice to see that there are protected areas, bodies of water that are protected, that can preserve the marine life, and in this case here, the historic value of the shipwrecks.”
Krupke’s final thoughts on windmills in the lake:
“We’ve got to protect what is ours and the resources that we have here, in our county and towns,” he said, “and that’s one way of doing it: minimize the visibility of windmills.”
County Administrator Phil Church is very much a proponent of a federal designation of nearby portions of Lake Ontario as a national marine sanctuary.
Such a designation here would make part of Lake Ontario one of only 15 other national marine sanctuaries in U.S. waters. While Church said in a recent interview he agrees with the County Legislature in opposing windmills in the lake, he also said, “it’s my understanding that the windmills would not affect the designation one way or the other. The concern, of course, is more preserving the pristine, scenic nature of the lake and promoting visitation. Windmills aren’t conducive to promoting the lake as a destination for people to come and relax and enjoy the natural beauty of it.”
As far as the designation process, Church said, it “seems to be on track. It’s going very well. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is working on creating its final version of the federal rule that designates the area as a sanctuary, and that will come back out for public comment again later this year. So, everything’s on track and looking good.
“The county has a history of opposing windmills in the lake from the various attempts that have been made,” Church concluded. “We’re just very concerned about our sport fishery and the attraction of the natural beauty of the lake and what it would do to our tourism industry if they were to be built.”
And finally, according to a spokesman for NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority):
“The Great Lakes Wind Feasibility Study is on track to be completed and filed with the Public Service Commission in spring 2022. It is important to note that this is a feasibility study, not a siting study, and was designed to better understand the technical, regulatory and economic risks and benefits of Great Lakes Wind. As part of this work, NYSERDA hosted four public webinars, as well as dedicated public feedback sessions, that provided an opportunity for individuals and local elected officials to participate in and receive information on the scope of the study. To date, no projects have been proposed, though a regulatory roadmap is included in the study which outlines the permitting and governmental requirements for potential projects in both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.”