by Danielle Forsyth
A proposed $1 billion Great Lakes offshore wind project by the New York State Power Authority has some Niagara County residents concerned.
The project could lead to the construction of up to 166 wind turbines along Niagara County's Lake Ontario shoreline. A recent meeting was held at the Youngstown Yacht Club where selected local officials, property owners and community stakeholders met with state representatives Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and State Sen. George Maziarz, to express their disapproval with the proposed project.
The meeting focused on two issues with the offshore windmill plan. The first was how homeowner's property values would be affected. The second, if the windmills are economically feasible in the area.
Youngstown Yacht Club board member Dick Roach was present at the meeting. He was involved with windmills long before this most recent issue. In the mid-1980s, Roach worked for Merrill Lynch in New York state selling windmills to investors.
Roach, who lives on the lakeshore, said that "property values would plummet" if his home along with others looked out on the windmills. "It would just be one more thing to cause people to move," he stated.
Roach also said the placement of windmills in the lake off Niagara County - one area discussed is off shore of Fort Niagara - would significantly impact the areas recreational boating interests, from sport fishing to sailing, including the Youngstown Yacht Club's Level Regatta taking place this weekend. "It would kill the Level," he commented.
There were also issues that arose in the meeting regarding the windmills' economic feasibility in Niagara County. Roach explained that the meeting was not necessarily opposed to windmill production, but production on the lake. Offshore windmills cost 4-5 times more to construct and maintain than those on land.
Despite the claims of New York State Power Authority that construction of the turbines will create jobs, many were skeptical.
"Yes, there will be some jobs that are created," says Roach, "but most of the work is done by crews from all over the world who specialize in building the windmills. These will not be the 30-foot turbines that you see local farmers using in their fields." The size of the proposed windmills is approximately a football field and one-half in height, or about the height of a 30-story building.
In 2003, the Army Corps of Engineers filed a report, which said the Great Lake states from Minnesota to New York produce $22 billion in recreational boating, fishing and lakefront tourism-related revenues. New York state alone receives more than $2.5 billion of that in insurance, taxes and fees.
Concerns arose that putting in the windmills would be detrimental to the fishing habitat which, in turn, would affect the lakefront economy as well as the revenues the state receives.
NYPA officials were not in attendance at the meeting, at the request of Maziarz and DelMonte.