County stays mum on turbine dilemma

OBSERVER Photo The Dunkirk Lighthouse board of directors recently rejected a wind monitor plan for Lake Erie.

They are already too tall to ignore in Arkwright. Villenova’s turbines will someday sky even higher while the towns of Charlotte and Hanover will soon be having additional towers erected for the wind-energy business.

Is this what we, as Chautauqua County and Western New York residents, want for our futures? Turbines lined across the elevated areas of our county?

Maybe we do. But we also know there has been enough push-back that there needs to be a limit.

In the Chautauqua 20/20 Com-prehensive plan, two of the 128 pages are dedicated to energy. Little is noted about wind turbines except there needs to be some green-energy options.

It is almost as if the plan is far too open to interpretation. That is exactly what the wind companies want.

Earlier this week, OBSERVER staff writer Mary Heyl reported that those companies are not just looking at our hills, they are additionally eyeing our waters. Dunkirk’s Lighthouse board of directors was faced with making a decision — to profit by $500 per month — of having a wind monitor on its site. It is a step toward potential offshore turbines.

Because the Lighthouse is a private, not-for-profit agency, the presentation by Diamond Offshore Wind happened without public notice. In the end, however, the Lighthouse decided against allowing the monitoring station.

“Despite really needing money, we did the honorable thing by taking the high road — continuing to proudly protect the lake as the Lighthouse has done since 1826 and thinking of the whole affected region, unlike those who put up the monster structures on the hillside (in Arkwright) that we all have to look at every day,” said Mary Burns Deas, board member at the Lighthouse.

Dunkirk’s Lighthouse board, for all intents and purposes, ultimately offered this perspective: is this what is best for the region? To them, the lake and shoreline is far too valuable for this type of project.

But its “no” vote will not stop wind turbine developers. They will likely look at other locations, especially private land owners. Being outside the realm of government keeps chatter on the plans to a minimum.

This being said, it is time for the Chautauqua County Legislature to rise up and make its voice heard on the topic. Currently, the 19-member body has been focused on some challenging issues for Chautauqua Lake. In the process, they have made some smart decisions.

Now, however, it is time to direct some of their energies on the wind farms that have turned their attention to the waters. Legislator Mark Odell of Brocton, representing District 7, has probably been the most outspoken in regard to the topic. As chairman of the Legislatures Planning and Economic Development Committee, he publicly opposed the Cassadaga Wind Project in a letter to the Public Service Commission.

All 18 other legislators, however, have not been as vocal regarding the turbines. Some of them, it must be noted, have wind projects that will be getting underway or are already in place in their respective districts.

Last August, this corner chided the 19 legislators, who earn $9,000 to attend 12 meetings annually, for a perceived lack of action. Some actually took offense to it.

But consider this: since 2014 when this Legislature approved selling the Chautauqua County Home and, in 2015, when they increased the sales tax from 7.5 percent to 8 percent, there really been no major accomplishments. At least with the wind turbines, legislators have an opportunity to at least offer some direction in how the county moves forward.

Those turbines do not impact just an individual municipality. Because of the height, they impact neighboring towns and villages. If they do ultimately become visible on the Great Lakes, they will then be an international issue.

Maybe a task force, which includes residents on both sides of the topic, needs to be formed if county officials are too afraid to take a stand on their own.

Being quiet regarding this major issue is a dereliction of duty. County legislators need to, for once in the last four years, show some leadership on a controversial issue before private land owners or local municipal governments make decisions that impact our landscape and possibly international waters.

Blowing this off is no longer acceptable.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.


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