Roxbury planners await input on Moresville

By Julia Green
All’s quiet on the windy front as the Roxbury Planning Board awaits a response from Invenergy. Visible progress on the proposed Moresville Wind Project hums in idle as the review process continues moving through the required State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review, and the ball is still decisively in the developer’s court.

Invenergy, the Chicago-based energy company that wants to build a wind turbine development on the Moresville ridge along Route 23 between Grand Gorge and Stamford, submitted the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) required as part of the SEQRA process last year, which was subsequently the focus of two public hearings. A summary of comments from those public hearings and additional comments from the public as well as from various agencies and organizations were submitted to Invenergy in August; Invenergy is required to respond to all comments.

“We are going through them all right now and developing responses that the planning board can review, and that’s a time-consuming process, especially considering the volume of comments we received,” said Eric Miller, director of business development for Invenergy. “But it’s not unusual that it takes a bit of time at this point in the process to make sure that you get good answers back to the public comments.”

In November, LaBella Associates, the engineering firm hired by the Roxbury Planning Board to serve as consultants on the project, sent a letter to Invenergy listing the additional studies requested by the planning board as lead agency as well as a list of comments from the planning board regarding the DEIS. These comments and questions must also be addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

“We just had a meeting this past Wednesday, and Invenergy’s representative was there, and basically they’re making comments to all the public statements that were made back in May,” said Roxbury Planning Board Chairman Joseph Farleigh. “A good portion of that is completed; one thing holding things up at this point is the additional bird study we asked for.”

Further studies requested by the Roxbury Planning Board include surveys of raptor migration, nocturnal migration, archaeology, architecture, visual impacts, traffic and road impacts, tourism and property values, noise, wells, forest and habitats, and plants and wildlife.

“They’re comprehensive,” Miller said of the comments from the planning board and the requests for additional information. “There are a lot of issues that we’ve seen before, but certainly the one that has the biggest impact on the schedule is the request to do additional bird monitoring, and we’re doing that.”

Additional monitoring will be conducted from the top of the ridge and will be carried out during the month of May, as per DEC recommendations. The extra study will be conducted over a 30-day period. Beyond the additional avian studies, Miller added that other requested studies are in progress.

“We’re working on the other studies right now,” he said. “Right now we think the last study to be done will be that bird study. Once we get that in house, we would be able to incorporate it into the FEIS.”

“We’re optimistic that the board would be in a position to issue the FEIS sometime this summer,” he added. Farleigh anticipated that if Invenergy is able to produce the results and analysis of the additional studies by late June, the Roxbury Planning Board would be able to generate the FEIS by July.

“A lot of it will be information that our engineering firm has been compiling in response to comments raised,” Farleigh said. “I don’t know how long it will take us, actually. We’ve sifted through this stuff a couple of times, so I think we have a pretty good sense of it, though how long it will take us to come to a Final Environmental Impact Statement, I don’t know. I would anticipate by fall.”

Upon completion of the FEIS, it will then fall to the planning board to determine the next step for Invenergy and the proposed wind farm. The board may opt to accept the FEIS as acceptable, deem it unacceptable, or voice more reservations. If the board were to demonstrate lingering reluctance, Invenergy would be required to prove that the impacts in question could be mitigated in some way. It has also been suggested that if and when the FEIS is cleared, the issue will become whether or not the developer has sufficient landowner support to proceed with the project.

Miller declined to comment on speculation that there is insufficient backing from landowners. “I don’t worry about that,” Farleigh said. “That’s between the landowner and Invenergy. But my assumption is that if they didn’t have enough landowner support, they would be very foolish investing all this money, and I don’t think that’s the case.”