Wind turbines – it’s a topic that just won’t go away. And neither will opponents of the proposed wind farm on Ice Mountain.
With such an important decision before council, it’s not something that should be taken lightly.
Many organizations and residents have been voicing their concerns over the past two years regarding the possible wind farm and Tyrone Borough residents will get one last chance to let their voices be heard at Tuesday’s primary election.
Voters on Tuesday will be given the opportunity to participate in an informal survey regarding the 10 to 15 turbine wind farm on the borough’s watershed property on Ice Mountain.
The windmill survey will require voters to simply check “yes” or “no” to the proposed wind farm.
Registered borough voters will have to show his or her voting stub before the survey can be taken. Residents who are registered Independent are not able to vote in the primary, but Mayor Jim Kilmartin said these individuals will not be left out.
“For those who are borough resident independent and don’t get to vote in the primary, but desire to vote on the wind mill survey, please contact me at the borough office,” stated Kilmartin.
Although the results of the survey cannot be binding upon borough council due to Home Rule Charter, with a total of 3,260 registered voters in the borough, it can make a powerful statement to borough council members who feel it is a fair and impartial assessment of the opinion of borough residents on the proposed wind farm project.
Juniata Valley Audubon Society (JVAS) Conservation Chairman Stan Kotala, who is also the spokesman for the Save Ice Mountain group, has been at the forefront of the opposition in Gamesa’s proposed wind farm on Ice Mountain.
In a previous Daily Herald article, he said the JVAS is not opposed to wind energy, but asks that wind energy be developed in an ecologically sound manner, avoiding ecologically sensitive areas, such as Ice Mountain.
Little Juniata River Association president Bill Anderson feels similarly.
Reasons for the opposition from such organizations vary from erosion problems, to Ice Mountain being designated as a “unique” Landscape Conservation Area “of exceptional significance” in the Blair County Natural Heritage Inventory.
“An industrial wind farm on Ice Mountain would pose a serious threat to the headwater streams, springs, and seeps that feed the municipal water supply of Tyrone,” said Anderson.
To gain access to the wind farm site, miles of heavy-duty roads and other changes will have to occur. These changes pose a threat to the tributaries of the Little Bald Eagle Creek and the Little Juniata River watershed, putting them at risk of siltation and contamination.
“Because of these risks,” said Anderson, “the Little Juniata River Association asks voters in the Borough of Tyrone to reject the proposal to develop Ice Mountain into an industrial wind farm.”
Kotala also wants to encourage borough residents to stand up against the possible wind farm and vote “no” on Tuesday.
“Voters in the Borough of Tyrone should reject Gamesa’s proposal to develop Ice Mountain into an industrial windplant because the risks outweigh the benefits,” said Kotala.
“The greatest of these risks is the risk of contaminating the Borough’s water supply. There’s no way that miles of heavy-duty roads, turbine clearings, substations, and 400-foot-tall wind turbines filled with hundreds of gallons of coolants and lubricants can be built in the watershed without putting our springs, streams, and seeps at risk.”
He continued, saying, “In addition, Ice Mountain plays an important role as a place for public recreation in the form of hiking, hunting, and other outdoor activities, all of which would be impacted severely by the noise and aesthetic degradation that an industrial windplant would bring. As a County Natural Heritage Area, Ice Mountain should be afforded the highest level of protection. Let Borough Council know that the risks of developing Ice Mountain into an industrial windplant outweigh the benefits by marking ‘no’ on the survey at the polls on Tuesday.”
Many others have voiced their opposition to the wind farm in previous editions of The Daily Herald, including today’s Letters to the Editor section.
Most of the Ice Mountain wind farm opponents do not deny there are positive aspects to wind energy.
One of the main benefits to the borough would be the monetary aspect. The wind turbines would generate annual revenue for the borough for 30 years at $7,500 per turbine.
With a proposed quantity of 10 to 15 turbines, and potential for greater return through royalties, the amount of revenue generated would be substantial.
There is also the possibility of creating new employment opportunities, although this would be minimal – possibly only one to two new jobs here in our area.
Also, as somewhat of a built in protection, the agreement between Gamesa and the borough is bonded to provide protection for the borough in the event Gamesa is sold or if the turbines become obsolete.
On the other side, none of the electricity generated from the wind farm will be provided to the borough. Also, the proposed project location is where the head waters of Sinking Run provide the direct source of water for the borough reservoir.
Although the money side of it sounds right and Gamesa’s stance on environmental effects of the wind farm site and its surroundings are addressed by the company by carefully looking into and abiding by the laws, some local organizations feel the Ice Mountain site is not a good place for Gamesa to set up shop for an abundance of environmental concerns.
“While there is little doubt that Gamesa, owned by a foreign corporation, will be held to high standards at first, time will pass,” said Anderson.
However, in the future “will we question whether our public agencies, such as DEP and the Tyrone Borough managers, will have the resources to ensure future compliance, or will we wake up one day to find that one or more turbines have failed – as they have in other places – and dirt roads are eroding and washing out….”
But Anderson said at that point it will be too late because “the damage to our watershed will already be done.”