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Erie lakeshore residents take on NYPA and wind advocates

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By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-906655.mp3

Buffalo, NY – Wind advocates and lakeshore homeowners squared-off Wednesday at an Erie County informational hearing on the New York State Power Authority's proposed wind project.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's full story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

NYPA's plan calls for developers to install as many as 160 wind turbines off the shores of lakes Erie and/or Ontario. Members of the county legislature's committee on energy and environment say they have been flooded with calls from constituents opposed to the project.

Lawmakers invited NYPA to come Wednesday to explain the project. But a few dozen mostly lakeshore residents in attendance were not satisfied with what they heard.

Richard Kozak is a member of the Southtowns Walleye Association. Kozak said the turbines would compromise the lakes only to benefit of developers.

NYPA would grant a 20-year contract to the selected developers to buy back the power generated.

Kozak and others said the lake bed would be compromised by the turbines, as well as the trenching necessary to lay power transport cables to shore. Aesthetics, the potential impact on bird migration and ice sheeting were among other concerns.

But NYPA representative Sharon Laudisi said the maximum 500 megawatt project would be thoroughly scrutinized under a two-year long multi-agency environmental review process.

According to Laudisi, that State Environmental Quality Review process, known as SEQR, will begin after bids are awarded in early 2011.

Wind advocates in attendance said it can not happen too soon. Representatives from Wind Action, the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters and others held a rally outside before the meeting.

They came armed with petitions carrying roughly 2,000 signatures from county residents who said they want off shore wind. Brian Smith with Citizens Campaign for the Environment said the benefits of wind are numerous - from clean energy and green job development, to domestic security by lessening dependence on foreign oil.

NYPA said exact locations for the proposed turbines will not be decided or announced until the bids are awarded. Residents, who might be most directly affected by the sitings, said they have had no input on that or any other aspect of a wind project they described as "not a question of if, but when."