On Wednesday, March 26 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Tyrone Area High School auditorium, there will be an informational public forum presented by Save Ice Mountain that features experts on industrial wind farms, wildlife, noise, and the effects of wind farms on communities.
Tyrone Borough and Spain-based wind power company, Gamesa Energy USA, are in the midst of a proposal to place a 10 to 15 turbine wind farm on its watershed property located on Ice Mountain. There have been many local residents who have opposed this project since its beginning nearly two years ago, and for the first time there will be a public forum that will focus on the negative impacts of a possible wind farm on Ice Mountain.
Gamesa’s windmills stand 404 feet tall, and heavy-duty roads, transmission lines, and substations are a few of the issues the Save Ice Mountain coalition have concerns over.
At the March 26 forum, there will be four speakers who are considered experts in their respected fields. Residents who live near already placed industrial wind farms will also be on hand to speak about their experiences.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS) President Dr. Stan Kotala, who has been at the forefront of opposing Tyrone Borough’s proposed project, will be one of the speakers at the Save Ice Mountain public forum. Kotala said that Tyrone area residents should attend the forum to become informed of the consequences of converting Ice Mountain into an industrial wind plant.
“This (forum) is especially important for citizens of the borough because they will be asked to participate in a poll during the April elections,” said Kotala. “The poll will ask voters in the borough whether they do or do not support converting Ice Mountain into an industrial wind plant.”
The poll, which is an informal survey the borough is asking registered borough voters to partake in, will be a tool for council to see how its residents feel about Gamesa’s proposal. Borough Council is not bound by the outcome due to Home Rule Charter.
Kotala feels the Borough of Tyrone has stewardship responsibility over Ice Mountain, which is a designated County Natural Heritage Area. He said by converting this area into an industrial wind plant would be “inconsistent with that stewardship responsibility.”
“An industrial wind plant on Ice Mountain will produce only puny amounts of electricity and will have no effect on air quality or global warming, but will ruin a County Natural Heritage Area that is described as being ‘of exceptional conservation value,’” added Kotala.
He continued, “It is impossible to construct 14 miles of heavy-duty roads, transmission line corridors, 400-foot-tall industrial wind turbines, substations, accessory buildings, and other associated infrastructure and still retain the characteristics that led to this area being designated as a County Natural Heritage Area.”
Kotala has worked with several municipalities in Blair and Centre counties over the past three years to assist in the crafting of ordinances that protect residents and the natural heritage from the effects of industrial wind farms. He currently serves on the Wind Power Siting Committee of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Kotala will be joined at the public forum by Dan Boone, a professional botanist, wildlife biologist, ecologist, and natural resources policy analyst. Boone has 30 years of experience in studying plants, wildlife, and their habitat throughout the Appalachian region. He will discuss whether or not the claims about wind power are accurate.
Boone’s career has focused on the identification and protection of the state’s and the region’s biological diversity. He currently is a private consultant working on issues related to species and habitat protection. For over five years, he has been actively engaged with issues and concerns regarding utility- scale wind energy development, and co-authored the Environmental Working Group of the Virginia Wind Energy Collaborative report entitled, A Landscape Classification System: Addressing Environmental Issues Associated with Utility-Scale Wind Energy Development in Virginia.
Laura Jackson will discuss the topic of “Turbine Turmoil – a survey of industrial wind projects in southcentral PA.” Jackson is a science educator who recently retired from teaching at Bedford High School, and is now the director of Bedford’s Environmental Center. Among Jackson’s many teaching accolades, for the past two and a half years she has researched industrial wind energy and its impact on human and wildlife communities.
Jackson is the chairperson of Save Our Allegheny Ridges (SOAR), a grassroots organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of the historic, natural, and scenic integrity of PA’s Allegheny Mountain ridges. She says that wind turbines on PA’s mountains fragment forests, destroy wildlife habitat, and kill birds and bats. SOAR members are active in educational efforts to help residents understand the real impact of wind turbines in rural communities, as well as working with government officials to develop ordinances to regulate wind turbine development on PA’s forested mountains.
Kim Van Fleet will be on hand to talk about the topic: “The Allegheny Front and Ice Mountain: An Exceptional Value Area for Birds.” Van Fleet is the Important Bird Area (IBA) coordinator and staff biologist with Audubon Pennsylvania. Her early work as a field ornithologist with Audubon involved siting, installation, and maintenance of point counts, habitat characterization, and monitoring breeding populations of birds in a number of IBA’s throughout the central and western regions of the state.
Van Fleet was employed as a biology instructor at both Shippensburg and Penn State (Harrisburg) Universities before working for the Audubon. She has worked on a number of field studies and research projects primarily focused on bird and mammal populations from 1991 to the present.
She has made numerous presentations to groups and organizations across the state and currently serves on the Science and Conservation Committee of the Hawk Migration Association of North America.
All the speakers at the March 26 forum will answer any questions residents may have. Anyone interested in helping at the forum or seeking more information can call Dr. Stan Kotala at 946-8840.