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Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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Somerset windmill plan judged deficient by state

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A controversial proposal to build 30 wind turbines in an ecologically sensitive watershed containing a wilderness trout stream on Shaffer Mountain in northeastern Somerset County has been judged deficient by the state.

A Feb. 22 letter from the state Department of Environmental Protection identifies more than two dozen deficiencies and concerns in the wind turbine permit application of Gamesa Energy USA, a Spanish wind power developer and turbine manufacturer. It requests additional information.

The technical review letter also invites the company to respond to 22 issues raised in public comments on the proposal to build the 404-foot-tall turbines and 18 miles of service roads in the watershed of Piney Run and Clear Shade Creek, two of the state's 28 "exceptional value" streams, a designation reserved for creeks with the highest water quality and biological diversity.

Opponents of the project say the DEP letter indicates the state is seriously reviewing independent studies they have submitted that show the project will damage the watershed, fragment the forest and hurt tourism and state endangered bat, rat and rattlesnake species.

"This wind project proposal is sited in one of the worst places they could put it in the state," said John Buchan, a leader of the local opposition to the project. He noted that Piney Run is also designated a Wilderness Trout Stream, with one of the last remnant populations of eastern native brook trout.

The site, along the eastern edge of the Allegheny Plateau, is also along a migratory pathway for numerous raptor species and in the middle of a Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Area of Exceptional Significance.

Ellen Lutz, Gamesa director of development, said the review letter is "part of the process" and "not unusual."

Gamesa, which was invited to the state by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2004 and manufactures turbines in Ebensburg, Cambria County, has built 41 wind turbines of an eventual 75 at its Allegheny Ridge Project on Blue Ridge Mountain, 15 miles north of Shaffer Mountain.

Tim Vought, Gamesa's project developer, said the Allegheny Ridge Project is also built in an exceptional value watershed and has had no impact on water quality there.

"We feel this project is sited appropriately," he said. "We are aware of all the concerns and see this (letter) mainly as an opportunity for a clarification of information already presented."

Pennsylvania is the leading producer of wind energy east of the Mississippi River, generating 153 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 70,000 homes. The Rendell administration has set a goal of adding more than 3,000 megawatts of wind power in the next 15 years.

The Shaffer Mountain wind turbine facility would generate 66 megawatts.

Unlike Canada, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, Pennsylvania has no regulations for siting wind turbine projects. Instead it relies on voluntary guidelines negotiated by the state Game Commission and the wind power industry that have no enforcement provisions.

The DEP permit is required because the development is in an exceptional value watershed.

Mr. Buchan said the local citizens group has approached area legislators to push for passage of a law to stop wind turbine development in pristine areas like Shaffer Mountain.

"This is an untouched area with a cluster of environmentally sensitive issues," Mr. Buchan said. "We hope to get Gamesa to see the light. If not, we'll fight it for as long as it takes."

Posted on: 2008/2/27 8:26
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Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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Paul,

Interesting dilema.

I thought this quote "Piney Run is also designated a Wilderness Trout Stream, with one of the last remnant populations of eastern native brook trout" was a little over the top!

Certainly the historic range of the brook trout has been severely reduced, but I wouldn't say we are down to our "last remnant populations".

Posted on: 2008/2/27 15:38
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Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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Not exactly the same spin the Trib put on the story

"Killinger said public opposition voiced at several hearings included concerns about wildlife, the view and property values.

"People didn't want them next to their property," Killinger said.

In addition, he said, the board's denial was based on height proposals for the towers. The zoning ordinance restricts tower height to 250 feet, while PPM's towers would have reached 262 feet.

The windmills were to be located on land zoned A-1, agricultural/rural. "



Trib Article

Posted on: 2008/2/27 15:51


Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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tom-Interesting that there was a very similar article in the tribune review. Funny how two a different locations on windmills comes up days apart. They are an eyesore. If I had a cabin and one of those went up in my view I would'nt be happy.

albatross- I guess it is all context sometimes. I don't think it would be hyperbole if compared to the brook trouts original habitat to todays. Agree with you though- a little strong on that one. However; it does balance out corporations with dollars signs.

I find the raptor and bat thing maybe harder to beleive. Don't bats have radar? Or is it that they never had to deal with swinging death arms in the history of the earth yet?

Maybe their terrorist susicide bats trying to topple the infidel windmills??

Posted on: 2008/2/27 16:23
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Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.
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"They are an eyesore. If I had a cabin and one of those went up in my view I would'nt be happy."

You think? I don't find them an eyesore. They are a damn sight better than cell phone towers.

Posted on: 2008/2/27 19:03
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Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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I find them much more appealing than say a big cooling tower or smoke stacks...

I did a story one the ones already in somerset my last year doing news...the farmer who let them use part of his land to build them didn't mind them either and they were just a few hundred yards from his house...the "him" they talk about wasn't nearly as bad as thy make it seem either...a heck of a lot less noise than coal trucks coming in and out all day and night...the guy made yummy ramp and butter sandwich too...

Posted on: 2008/2/27 19:37


Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.
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I think they are beautiful! It all depends on your attitude while viewing them. I look at them and see clean energy-- to me that is very pretty indeed.

Posted on: 2008/2/28 6:23
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Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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Quote:

JackM wrote:
I think they are beautiful! It all depends on your attitude while viewing them. I look at them and see clean energy-- to me that is very pretty indeed.


I think they are beautiful too. Not just because of the clean energy they provide. But they are just amazingly cool looking structures. Even if they didn't produce energy they would stand on their own as modern "kinetic" sculptures.

Posted on: 2008/2/28 8:52


Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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Pad said. "They are a damn sight better than cell phone towers."

(Trying to remember what city I was in that makes the towers look like trees- maybe DC area?)

Tom says. "I find them much more appealing than say a big cooling tower or smoke stacks...

I agree with you both, don't like those options either. Really don't want anything in my view from Laurel Ridge.

Guess I have the NIMBY attitude towards this. I know the benefits of clean energy and all but to generate the power needed would'nt there need to be one on everyones block?

Don't like the prospect of 1200 spread across the landscape.

Now what would be cool is if we could get enough of them on platforms in the ocean. Assuming this could be cost effective.

Wind generation is here to stay.

Posted on: 2008/2/28 10:24
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Re: Windmills and wilderness trout streams in Somerset Co.

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Quote:

acristickid wrote:

Now what would be cool is if we could get enough of them on platforms in the ocean. Assuming this could be cost effective.



ask the folks up in Cape Cod about that....

Posted on: 2008/2/28 11:55






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