Residents debate Cassadaga wind farm

Photo by A.J. Rao Pictured is local resident Tina Graziano, sharing her opinion on the Cassadaga Wind project at a public hearing recently at the Sinclairville Fire Hall.

SINCLAIRVILLE — Economic kickstarter or loud and potentially harmful eyesore?

Earlier this week, the pros and cons of the proposed Cassadaga Wind project were put on full display at a crowded public hearing at the Sinclairville Fire Hall.

The hearing, which allowed members of the community to share their opinions on the project, was presided over by three examiners from the New York State Board of Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (or Siting Board) — the entity that will ultimately determine whether the project is a beneficial addition to the area and in the public’s best interest.

The examiners were Administrative Law Judges Kevin Casutto and Dakin D. Lecakes of the Department of Public Service and Administrative Law Judge P. Nicholas Garlick of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Opinions varied during the hearing, with several members of the public calling out EverPower Wind Holdings, the developer behind the project, for withholding too much information on the environmental impacts of the wind facility.

“This is what divides communities — secrets that are hiding a forever lifestyle change,” said Tina Graziano, a local resident who gave a scathing rebuke of the wind company and town boards for supporting the project.

“Did they tell you and show you a visual of the proposed wind turbines that will be in our connecting townships?” she asked the crowd.  “All of them are about 37 feet shorter than the tallest building in Buffalo — monstrous. Think of the visual impact on the people who vacation and camp in this area. This will definitely have a serious impact on their decisions to frequent this area.”

Graziano added other impacts, including falling property values, TV antennas becoming useless from interference and birds and bats becoming victims of turbine blades, or as she put it, “the very things that we love and enjoy being executed daily.”

She concluded with health impacts, a complaint echoed by nearly every detractor who spoke Monday night.

“Did they tell you about the negative health risks associated with these turbines … the infrasound, wind turbine syndrome, sleep deprivation?” she asked the crowd again. “The landowners who signed lease agreements should have done their research and not have listened to these traveling salesmen selling a dangerous product.”

Supporters of the wind farm also voiced their opinions recently, particularly members of local labor unions who believe the project will be a major economic driver for the area.

A number of residents said the project will employ several dozens of local workers during the construction phase and up to eight permanent workers upon completion. The facility will also bring millions of dollars to the area since local businesses and contractors will benefit from the increased activity.

The comments made at the hearing will be collected and reviewed by the Siting Board. A decision on the project will be rendered by November.

In March 2016, Cassadaga Wind LLC, a unit of EverPower, filed an application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need pursuant to Article 10 of the Public Service Law.

If granted, the certificate would authorize the company to construct a 126 megawatt wind farm in the towns of Cherry Creek, Charlotte, Arkwright and Stockton.

Spanning approximately 40,000 acres of mostly farmland and recreational land, the wind facility is expected to have up to 58 wind turbines and generate enough electricity to meet the average annual consumption of approximately 36,791 to 55,187 households.

In November 2016, the Siting Board determined that the application complied with the Siting Board’s filing requirements and thus the hearing process could begin.