Planners seek more studies on Roxbury turbine proposal

By Julia Green
The ball is back in Invenergy's court.
Following its October meeting, the Town of Roxbury Planning Board submitted to Invenergy, the company behind the proposed Moresville Wind Farm, requests for additional information and studies needed prior to issuance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – a key step in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process.
The requests for additional information include issues raised during the public comment phase of the process as well as questions and areas of concern that have arisen in the board’s own discussions and deliberations.
“We studied the [public] comments very thoroughly and the board discussed them and concurred on what we thought was necessary to give us the detailed information needed for decision-making,” said Joe Farleigh, chair of the Roxbury Planning Board.
In the letter to Invenergy drafted by LaBella Associates that accompanied the board’s list of additional requested information, it was communicated that, “The board will not come to a final determination relative to all additional information or studies required for the preparation of the Final EIS until they have both received and had an opportunity to evaluate your proposed responses to the public and agency comments to the Draft EIS as well as the information described in the attached summary.”

Study requested
Among the informational needs identified by the planning board were:
Areas in which further study was requested include: avian impacts; dinurnal (raptor) migration; an updated study in the form of an updated visual impact assessment or visual impact assessment addendum; tourism and property values; forest/habitat survey; and plant, wildlife and insect survey.
Areas in which no further study was requested but about which the board was waiting for additional information included: archaeological reports, architectural reports; traffic and road impacts; noise impacts; hydrology; and computer input information. Provided that Invenergy is able to present the board with sufficient information, no additional studies in the aforementioned areas would be necessary.
“We’re still reviewing some of the details of the requests and we fully intend to do everything we can do give the planning board all the info they’re looking for to make a decision on the project,” said Dave Groberg, Invenergy’s Vice President for Development. “It’s clear to us that the planning board and LaBella are being extremely thorough.”
He added that Invenergy will essentially vet its response plan before formally responding to the specific requests. “We want to make sure that we give them what they’re looking for,” he said.
Groberg anticipated that Invenergy will have its responses to each of the requests underway by the end of the year, though he acknowledged that some of the requests from the planning board signify a certain delay to the project’s projected time frame.
“Clearly, conducting a full radar study during the spring migrating season for birds was not something we had in our original schedule, so that will take some added time,” he said. “But there was always some flexibility as to whether we were going to build the project in 2009 or 2010 anyway, so it may not end up making much difference.”
He added that while 2009 is probably not a realistic goal at this point, developers are still optimistic for 2010.
Farleigh acknowledged that the process has been “long and tedious.”
“We’ve never done anything like this before, and we never expect to do it again, but I’m pleased that the public has acted very civilly in presenting the information they thought should be brought before us, and I feel the same way of the Invenergy folks,” he said. “I think they’ve responded in kind, and I think they’ve done what they could to get the information in front of us. There’s going to be some downtime now before any of these studies are done and the results are forthcoming.”
Groberg also refuted suggestions that the current economic crisis would have a debilitating negative impact on the project, citing Invenergy’s project in western New York, construction of which remains in full swing. He rejected suggestions that the blooming industry of wind power would come to a halt, as has been seen with projects like Connecticut-based Noble Environmental Power’s project in the northern Adirondack town of Belmont, where construction on 14 towers was halted due to financing problems.
“Certainly, it’s not as easy to raise capital now as it was a few months ago, but we remain confident that good projects like this one will be able to raise the money needed to get them built,” Groberg said. “You continue to see wind projects getting financed. While everyone expects a slow-down, no one expects a halt. Most people would agree that future for the wind industry looks bright.”
To view a complete list of requests made by the Roxbury Planning Board to Invenergy, visit: http://www.roxburyny.com/windproject/.