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Wind Development in the River Valley Needs Comprehensive Review

January 19th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

Save The River’s mission is to always be concerned about the health of the St. Lawrence River and to seek policies and actions to protect it. We believe there is a direct connection between the health of the River and the health of the creatures who swim, fish, drink and stop over in its waters and the health of the communities that line its shores. If one is threatened, all are in danger.

We base our efforts to preserve, protect and restore the River on research. It was research that informed our fight to stop winter navigation. And it was years of research that supported our successful advocacy for a new water levels plan.

Now, with the River valley facing wind energy development on an unprecedented scale, research into the potential impacts is desperately needed.

Save The River does not oppose energy from wind or other non-carbon sources. We believe the clear threats to the River from traditional methods of energy production – coal, oil, gas – make it imperative that we shift to renewable energy sources and conservation measures. Appropriately sized and sited wind projects are a necessary part of a sustainable energy future.

HOWEVER, we do believe the scope, scale, number and geographic spread of industrial wind projects proposed in the River region in both New York and the province of Ontario dwarfs the current ability of residents, local governments and state agencies to understand the potential impacts of so many turbines in such a biologically diverse and ecologically sensitive area. The state and local officials who will decide if one, two or more of these projects get built require far more research specific to the area and the species and resources to be impacted than they now have or are likely to see presented in individual permit applications.

Decision-makers do not have an adequate base of knowledge on which to permit even one of the currently proposed industrial wind projectsBut they can!

Fortunately, even though the several projects proposed are individually owned and will be individually permitted, there is a mechanism in New York State law that can put the research needed into the hands of the public and decision-makers – a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“GEIS”).

Since 2010 Save The River has called for a comprehensive, region‐wide, cross‐border assessment of the cumulative environmental impacts of the many projects proposed in the River valley.

A GEIS will give the Article 10 Siting Boards and the town, village and county boards and the residents they represent the information they need to make informed decisions on the range of environmental and cultural impacts that are very likely to be compounded by multiple projects.

And you can help make this happen!

As these projects move forward in the application process it is important that the agency heads in Albany hear from all of us who want to make sure that solutions to problems like climate change are balanced, and based on reasoning and research. The Governor’s goal of sourcing 50% of the state’s energy needs from alternative sources by 2030 is a necessary step, but it is important that we make certain the state is not trading one set of negative impacts for another.

Contact the heads of the Public Service Commission and the Department of Environmental Conservation and tell them a Generic Environmental Impact Statement that includes all the industrial wind projects being proposed for the eastern shore of Lake Ontario and along the St. Lawrence Valley must be prepared prior to any project being permitted.

Save The River’s letter is here.

Contact:

Basil Segos, Commissioner
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1010
phone:  (518) 402-8545
– or – email the Commissioner
Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess
Secretary to the Commission
New York State Public Service Commission
Empire State Plaza
Agency Building 3
Albany, NY 12223-1350
phone:  (518) 474-6530
email: secretary@dps.ny.gov


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Vote!

November 8th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

vote.

Vote as if your children and their children’s access to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water depends on it.

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Demand that our elected officials at every level work for a healthy St. Lawrence River that provides safe drinking water, is home to a thriving range of indigenous species and supports sustainable economic activity.

 

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Industrial Wind Development Needs to Avoid Shoreline Areas

August 17th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

“The importance of shoreline areas, as revealed by our [US Fish and Wildlife Service] study, highlight the need to avoid these areas as migration corridors as recommended in the Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guideline.” (from the “Great Lakes Avian Radar Technical Report; Niagara, Genesee, Wayne and Jefferson Counties, New York, Spring Season [just released])

This study must be taken into account by every level of government agency – from local municipal, to state and federal – that has any permitting or oversight authority at all. And, in particular the New York State Departments of Public Service and Environmental Conservation which have shared, sole responsibility, under Article 10, for the permitting and siting of industrial wind projects.

The United State Fish and Wildlife Service, after years of study, using radar generated data, issued a report this July Eagle on the St. Lawrence Riverstating, “Our data demonstrate that the shoreline areas of Lake Ontario are important for migrating birds and bats. We have identified behaviors that concentrate migrants along the shoreline, demonstrated that these behaviors occur regularly throughout the season, and established that migrants are flying at altitudes that place them at risk of collision with current or future wind energy development in the area. The importance of shoreline areas, as revealed by our study, highlight the need to avoid these areas as migration corridors as recommended in the Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (USFWS 2012).

Per Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of the American Bird Conservancy Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program, “The study provides fresh and compelling evidence that wind-energy development does not belong on the shores of the Great Lakes, as ABC, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and other conservation groups have argued. It confirms what we have long known: In the absence of proven methods to reduce bird collisions with turbines, wind-energy development must be sited in areas where there are fewer birds and bats to minimize harm to these ecologically important animals.”

ABC continued “The FWS currently recommends that no wind turbines be built within three miles of the Great Lakes’ shorelines, while The Nature Conservancy recommends five miles. However, this new radar study suggests that the minimum should be extended even farther, perhaps as far as 10 miles. Unfortunately, the wind industry is eager to build in these sensitive areas.”

We couldn’t agree more.

more information at:
USFWS
American Bird Conservancy

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Audubon on Wind Development

March 18th, 2016 | Posted by Lee
from Audubon (edited for emphasis): The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends all new wind developments consider several factors before choosing a location.
Among these AVOID:
– bird migration routes;
– places where raptors’ prey congregates, and
– water-filled landscapes that would encourage birds to flock, such as wetlands.
The full piece is worth a read: http://ow.ly/ZFhkS
Isn’t the St. Lawrence River valley, a place:
– ON the Atlantic Flyway, a MAJOR bird migration route;
– WHERE raptors’ prey congregates, and
– a WATER-FILLED landscape that encourages birds to flock?
Save The River’s position: http://ow.ly/ZFlS0
photo credit: Heidi Blackwell

photo credit: Heidi Blackwell

from Audubon (edited for emphasis):

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends all new wind developments consider several factors before choosing a location.

Among these AVOID:
– bird migration routes;
– places where raptors’ prey congregates, and
– water-filled landscapes that would encourage birds to flock, such as wetlands.

The full Audubon piece “Will Wind Energy Ever Be Safe for Birds?” is worth a read.

Isn’t the St. Lawrence River valley, a place:
– ON the Atlantic Flyway, a MAJOR bird migration route;
– WHERE raptors’ prey congregates, and
– a WATER-FILLED landscape that encourages birds to flock?

Save The River’s position on industrial wind development in the St. Lawrence River valley

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Save The River’s Position on Industrial Wind Development in the St. Lawrence River Valley

March 14th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Position on Industrial Wind (as of 2016-03-14).

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Save The River comments on the latest Cape Vincent Wind Project filing

April 19th, 2013 | Posted by Lee

Given our mission, we are keenly aware of the need to find and implement effective solutions to a changing climate and support efforts to shift energy production to renewable, appropriately scaled and sited sources. Because of this, we have viewed the proliferation of commercial, industrial wind projects and the increasing number of turbines within each project proposed to be located in the upper St. Lawrence River region with concern.

Consistent with our mission of protecting the environmental integrity of the St. Lawrence River and the species, human and animal, that depend on it, we are adamantly opposed to the CVWP Project moving to the application phase under Article 10 until a comprehensive, cumulative assessment of bird and bat mortality is conducted which includes all projects which have been proposed in the River region. This assessment should be bi-national and coordinated among the several federal, state and provincial governments that have the authority, jurisdiction and agencies with requisite expertise to conduct such an assessment. Allowing pre-construction studies (supplemented by totally useless post-construction studies) undertaken piecemeal and by project proponents is a woefully inadequate way to address the issues alluded to in CVWP’s own documents.

Save The River believes that the people of Cape Vincent, the River region and New York State deserve and should demand new, comprehensive, cumulative studies of potental bird and bat mortality in order to better determine the true nature of the potential threat to this critical flyway.

Full text of the letter here.

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WINDFALL to be Shown @ Clayton Opera House March 5th

February 15th, 2011 | Posted by admin

Two free showings of the documentary WINDFALL will be shown at the Clayton Opera House on Saturday, March 5th at 12:30 and 4:00. The documentary looks at the many sides of wind energy development by profiling the community of Meredith, NY’s divisive struggle with wind energy development.

To learn more about the film, view the trailer below or visit www.windfallthemovie.com. Although the film is free, RSVPs are encouraged. To RSVP e-mail windfallinfo@yahoo.com

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Save The River Position on Industrial Wind Development within the St. Lawrence River Valley

August 4th, 2010 | Posted by admin

The abundant natural resources and the beauty of the Thousand Islands are among the region’s greatest assets. They are the foundation for a vibrant ecology, clean drinking water, and an economy dependent on tourism and recreation. Save The River’s purpose is to protect the quality of the Upper St. Lawrence River through advocacy, education and research, so the waterway continues to sustain a healthy ecology for future generations. Given this purpose, Save The River is keenly aware of the need for effective solutions to climate change, and supports efforts to shift to renewable energy sources in general. However, we are also gravely concerned about the scale and potential impacts of commercial wind development along the St. Lawrence River.

The Upper St. Lawrence River valley has one of the most unique and substantial grassland habitats in eastern North America; a habitat that is home to specialized grassland bird populations, as well as a home and critical seasonal foraging habitat for a variety of winter raptors. The grassland habitat includes Amherst and Wolfe Islands in Canada, Stony and Galloo Islands in the U.S., as well as major portions of the US and Canadian mainland towns bordering the Upper St. Lawrence River. The importance of this habitat is accentuated by the scarcity of such grasslands in this geographical region. In addition, the northeastern portion of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River is an important migratory flyway for a large number of waterfowl and songbird species that pass through our area en route to and from northern breeding grounds.

It also should not be overlooked that the federally listed endangered species, the Indiana Bat, has been identified as a resident of this same grassland community. This species must be protected from impacts associated with wind turbines.

Given the many issues listed above, it becomes extremely important for our communities to learn from the only operational wind farm currently in the flyway – Wolfe Island – before moving forward with wind farm development on the scale currently proposed. While the Wolfe Island wind farm has only 86 turbines, more than 400 turbines in as many as six different projects are currently proposed in every direction around Wolfe Island. Cumulatively, these projects could radically alter these habitats that our communities have long endeavored to protect.

Initial reports of bird and bat fatalities associated with the July – December 2009 operation of the Wolfe Island Wind Project have just recently been released, and several experts have voiced concerns that the bird mortality is on target to be among the highest in North America. During the same 6-month period, 1,270 bat mortalities were estimated from the wind farm operation. In light of these documented high fatality rates, a major concern is the apparent lack of coordination between the US and Canadian governments (Federal, Provincial, and State) in addressing the cumulative impacts on wildlife resources from the numerous industrial-scale wind projects proposed in the upper St. Lawrence valley.

The initial high avian and bat mortality documented at the Wolfe Island Wind Project along with the lack of any cumulative impact assessment for wind projects proposed within the St. Lawrence valley, demand a “wait and see” response from decision makers in the communities that are now involved with examining environmental impact studies from wind developers. With less than a year of avian fatality study completed at Wolfe Island, it will require several more years of data collection to better understand the extent of fatalities associated with the island’s wind turbine operation. Given the grassland habitat and coastal area similarities across the region, the next two years of post-operational studies at Wolfe Island will provide important data for assessing potential cumulative wind turbine impacts on wildlife resources in the upper St. Lawrence River valley.

To address these concerns, Save The River supports the following:

1. A three-year moratorium on wind project development in municipalities bordering the Upper St. Lawrence River, in the US and Canada.

2. A cumulative assessment of bird and bat mortality as well as other environmental impacts, for the upper St. Lawrence River valley, coordinated by agencies in the US and Canada, considering two regional scenarios, one for 500 wind turbines and the other for 1,000 wind turbines.

In summary, the special nature of the place that we inhabit, including the importance of the habitat and flyway, when taken with the scale of the wind energy projects proposed, the lack of a process to assess cumulative review, and the initial indications of substantial impacts to birds and bats, all lead us to conclude that wind projects proposed for our area should not proceed further until the Wolfe Island Wind post-construction wildlife impact study is completed and a cumulative wildlife impact assessment involving the US and Canadian governments has occurred.

(Download a PDF of this statement here.)

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Press Release: Save The River Calls for a Halt on Wind Energy Development Due to Environmental Concerns

August 4th, 2010 | Posted by admin

Clayton, NY (August 4, 2010) – Save The River is urging local municipalities bordering the Upper St. Lawrence River in the U.S. and Canada to implement a three year moratorium on wind project development. The move was taken after careful review of recent data showing potentially high avian and bat mortality from the first six months of operation of the Wolfe Island Wind project, the only operating wind project in the region.

Additionally, Save The River is calling for a cumulative assessment of bird and bat mortality and other environmental impacts for wind development in the Upper St. Lawrence River valley, coordinated by agencies in the US and Canada. The assessment should consider two regional scenarios, one for 500 wind turbines and the other for 1,000 wind turbines.

“The initial high avian and bat mortality documented at the Wolfe Island Wind Project along with the lack of any cumulative impact assessment for wind projects proposed within the St. Lawrence valley, demand a ‘wait and see’ response from decision makers in the communities that are now involved with examining environmental impact studies from wind developers,” stated Save The River in a position paper detailing the rationale for the moratorium and cumulative assessment.

Several factors influenced the call for a moratorium on wind energy development in the region including:

• The St. Lawrence River valley contains one of the most unique and substantial grassland habitats in eastern North America, which is home to specialized bird populations and provides critical foraging habitat for a variety of raptor species. This habitat is increasingly scarce due to development pressure and further threatened by wind energy development.

• The Indiana Bat, a federally listed endangered species, has been identified as a resident in several communities slated for wind energy projects. The scientific community has expressed growing concern regarding the potential for bat kills and population declines given the rapid proliferation of wind power facilities and the large-scale mortality that has occurred at some facilities.

• No agencies have begun to assess the cumulative impacts of the more than 6 projects proposed along the Upper St. Lawrence River and, as a result, little if anything is known about the cumulative impacts of these projects on the River ecosystem. Nor has any cross-border coordination with Canada occurred, resulting in a lack of information for agencies assessing project impacts.

“Without a full picture of the impacts of wind energy development along the Upper St. Lawrence River, it is irresponsible to move forward with the wind projects currently in development at this time,” stated Save The River Executive Director Jennifer Caddick. “Communities along the St. Lawrence River have worked hard to protect the River’s water quality and wildlife for many years. A precautionary approach is the only way to ensure that the St. Lawrence River ecosystem remains vibrant and healthy.”

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Read Save The River’s full position statement.

For more information, contact Stephanie Weiss, Save The River Assistant Director at (315) 686-2010 or stephanie@savetheriver.org

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Save The River Comments on Wind Projects

June 29th, 2009 | Posted by admin

Save The River has been keeping close tabs on the many wind energy projects in development throughout the St. Lawrence River valley. Recently, Save The River submitted comments during the most recent round of review for the St. Lawrence Wind project proposed by Acciona Energy in the Town of Cape Vincent.

In our comments on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), we raise significant concerns about the lack of depth and breadth of the environmental impact studies and overall site review process of the proposed project.

Specifically, Save The River highlighted deficiencies in the following areas of the SDEIS:

  • Integrating relevant regional and local agency expertise to the fullest extent possible;
  • Conducting long-term pre-construction studies;
  • Conducting thorough bird and bat studies;
  • Rigorous review requirements via the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process; and
  • Visual impact analysis.

As a result of the above deficiencies, Save The River strongly recommends that the Town of Cape Vincent Planning Board require Acciona Energy, the developer of the St. Lawrence Wind Project, to take additional time to continue to review the environmental impacts of this project.

Read Save The River’s full letter here.

Save The River’s Position on Development of Wind and other Alternative Energy Projects

As communities along the River grapple with the many difficult questions surrounding wind energy development projects, many people have asked us about Save The River’s stance on wind energy.

Save The River supports alternative energy development, including wind power, in the St. Lawrence River watershed. However, the impacts of such projects must be thoroughly evaluated in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations. Additionally, projects must be planned and sited so that potential ecological damage to the River and its watershed is minimized.

Earlier Letters and Recommendations

Save The River has submitted several formal comment letters to local agencies reviewing wind energy projects in the region including:

Comments on Horse Creek (Clayton) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (6/14/07)

Commentss on St. Lawrence Wind (Cape Vincent) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (6/14/07)

Comment on BP (Cape Vincent) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (2/29/08)

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