State lawmakers meet with a select few at yacht club
YOUNGSTOWN — An offshore wind power project in New York state seems imminent, local officials said Monday — but not in Niagara County if they have anything to say about it.
State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, who along with state Sen. George Maziarz, met with a number of local officials, property owners and community stakeholders to discuss their disapproval of the New York Power Authority’s $1 billion Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project. The project which could lead to the construction of up to 166 wind turbines along Niagara County’s Lake Ontario shoreline is what Maziarz called the proposed wind farm another “typical, empty” promise from the New York Power Authority.
“When you have P.T. Barnum, a carnival barker, coming by to sell you jobs, telling you the windmills are going to be manufactured here in Niagara County, everybody is going to be working, great jobs. Who wouldn’t sign up for this?” Maziarz said of Kessel. “The problem is, excuse my bluntness, we have been screwed for so long by those people.”
The meeting, held at the Youngstown Yacht Club, was not open to all and several people were turned away Monday night. Mayor Neil Riordan said the meeting was invitation only due to limited space at the yacht club.
Maziarz said despite NYPA’s claims of job creation stemming from the wind project, he believes it would do little in terms of economic development for Western New York and do more to pad the pockets of the Power Authority.
The companies which manufacture the windmills are mostly foreign, coming from Denmark, while the five contractors who have submitted a request for proposal are all believed to be from out of state.
The Power Authority is looking to place large-scale wind farms in either Lake Ontario, Lake Erie — or both in an effort to channel the nation’s most productive wind region east of the great plains. NYPA’s attempts in Central New York to establish offshore wind power have been quelled as local governments in the counties of Wayne, Jefferson and Oswego have formally adopted resolutions opposing the construction of offshore wind farms. One county in New York state has supported NYPA’s proposal — Niagara County — a decisions that doesn’t sit well with DelMonte.
She criticized county representatives suggesting they may have jumped the gun in support of the project before hearing from residents in their respective districts.
“I was taken aback a little by that decision (by the Legislature),” DelMonte said before reading the May 5, 2009, county Legislature resolution aloud.
The Legislature voted “In support of NYPA’s proposal to construct a large wind energy farm off the shores of Lake Ontario and would like to be included in any conversations and/or meetings that are held relative to this project. So that Niagara County can offer its resources in any step of the process,” the resolution said.
The resolution goes on to offer assistance from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency in terms of tax breaks and financial incentives.
County Legislature Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville said he will be co-sponsoring a resolution which will look to rescind that decision and put the county on record opposing any Power Authority wind farm along the shores of Lake Ontario.
“There was very little information available to the Legislature at the time as to the impact of this (resolution),” Burmaster said. “I think that resolution came out rather quickly and since that time with more information, more community input and so forth, the Legislature, is, as I pointed out, going to put a resolution through that should negate that (previous) resolution.”
While elected officials focused on politics, local charter boat captains, homeowners, and pleasure boaters expressed their concerns over the loss of fishing habitat, boating lanes, environmental concerns and in turn, loss of revenues for lakefront communities. Those in attendance said shipping lanes to the Welland Canal would be severely compromised, lake water levels would increase significantly resulting in soil erosion for lakefront property owners. Dredging would be required to run wires beneath the lake floor, stirring up potentially harmful waste and chemicals detrimental the Lake Ontario ecosystem.
Dick Roach, a Youngstown boater and fisherman, cited a 2003 Army Corps of Engineers report which said the great lake states from Minnesota to New York generate $22 billion in boating, fishing and lakefront tourism-related revenues. New York state alone receives more than $2.5 billion of that.
“And we are talking about putting windmills in to displace some of this industry,” Roach said. “If Western New York gets a quarter of that it’s $675 million and those are yearly numbers.”
The project, which will be the world’s first fresh water wind farm would generate between 120- to 500-megawatts of power, but the cost of the project isn’t said to be economically feasible. John Reinhold, commodore of the Youngstown Yacht Club said the cost of construction for offshore windmills is twice the cost of onshore windmills.
With the Village of Youngstown one of the key stakeholders in the proposed windfarm, as NYPA has earmarked the mouth of the Niagara River, near Fort Niagara as a potential site for construction, Riordan said officials statewide should understand the negative impact of the proposal.
“NYPA’s backing of the Lake Ontario Wind Farm, once again demonstrates the (their) arrogance and ignorance regarding environmental, economic and natural resource negative impact of this project,” Riordan said. “Lake Ontario’s centuries old history, natural vistas, rich fishing, sailing, boating, resources must not and cannot be destroyed by boardroom bureaucrats.”
DelMonte encouraged those in attendance to write to their elected officials and demand resolutions be put in place opposing the Lake Ontario Wind Project. She added meetings should be held in public, where citizens can voice their concerns to those in power. She said while ultimately NYPA’s seven-member board of trustees has the ultimate decision on the project, she will do everything in her power to make it known Niagara County should not be a home for NYPA’s wind farm.
NYPA officials were not in attendance, at the request of Maziarz and DelMonte.