The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency passed a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement Thursday for the Galloo Island wind farm, leaving a clear path for the developer to pursue financing for the project, which has been a concern for some local lawmakers.
A few Oswego County legislators have said that the project would necessitate placing monopole structures on sections of county land, thus tarnishing the aesthetic and other aspects of the county.
“This transmission line would scar … and would disrupt wildlife and property owners’ land and agriculture,” said Oswego County Legislator Shawn Doyle, R-Pulaski, during a Legislature meeting in December.
However, according to Jefferson County Legislature Chairman Kenneth Blankenbush, the project may avoid Oswego County altogether if the public service commission opts for an alternative route currently being proposed as a feasible option.
The $550 million wind project proposed by Upstate New York Power Corp. (UNYPC) would include the installation of 77 wind turbines on Galloo Island, located approximately 12 miles off the shore of Lake Ontario in Jefferson County. The project would include a roughly 230 kilo-volt transmission facility that runs from the island and ends up on land in the town of Henderson, in Jefferson County.
The alternative to running the transmission wires around Jefferson County and eventually into northern segments of Oswego County would be routing a transmission line over land directly to a substation in Jefferson County. The lines would then plug into other lines and poles that currently exist. According to Blankenbush, this proposal is the first choice of the county and UNYPC.
“When the developer and the county both agree on which route to take, they usually go along with that unless there is some outrageous reason why it can’t be done that way, but we don’t expect that to be a problem,” Blankenbush said.
Doyle noted that he has become growingly optimistic regarding the project, but some concerns remain, including the potential problems associated with the Jefferson County Airport that lies between where the transmission lines make landfall and the substation.
“They are either going to have to take a northern or southern loop around that,” the legislator said. “There is nothing in writing, so we are keeping our eye on the whole thing. We are very grateful with what they are doing, we just hope it holds.”
The $54 million PILOT agreement for the Galloo Island wind farm project passed by a vote of 8-7 by Jefferson County legislators Tuesday night, which allowed the proposal to head to the Jefferson County IDA for a vote.
According to Blankenbush, the funds from the PILOT agreement would be allocated to the county, the town of Hounsfield and Sackets Harbor Central School District. The payments would be $2.2 million in the first year and would increase 2.5 percent every year.
In addition, a payment agreement was also made with UNYPC that would lead to the creation of a $3 million community fund. The funding would be available for youth and civic groups, not-for-profit organizations, volunteer groups, educational organizations and/or any entity whose purpose is charitable in nature or for the public good, Blankenbush said.
Also, there would be $500,000 placed in an educational fund that would be awarded to high school seniors pursuing higher education in the “green” field.
Blankenbush added that a labor agreement was also made that would allow 25 percent or less of the overall talent pool needed to build the project to come from outside Jefferson County. Fifty percent of the labor pool for the project would come from Jefferson County trade unions. The remaining 25 percent of the employees needed for the project would draw from Jefferson County.
“If they don’t hit that 25 percent, every 1 percent off that 25 percent means that they will have to deposit another $25,000 into the educational fund,” Blankenbush said.
The legislator added that UNYPC is eligible for $150 million of stimulus funding for the wind farm’s construction if 10 percent of the project is completed by Dec. 31.
According to Doyle, he and a few other Oswego County legislators plan to meet with Jefferson County legislators later this month to discuss disapproval of a separate wind project currently being proposed by the New York Power Authority that would place windmills in sections of Lake Ontario located in Jefferson County. The windmills would be visible from Oswego County, which is the main point of contention for Oswego County legislators.