About the application for the wind turbine on Route 9D in Garrison:
I have no problems with wind turbines provided they do no environmental or scenic harm and are viable. If they make sense, fine. This one doesn’t.
1. ‘Carry in-carry out.’
That is one of the guidelines on the visitors’ signboard in Mary’s Meadow just before you go up the lovely Manitoga trails designed by Russel Wright. Visitors are asked to make no impact on the environment. Manitoga is a contiguous neighbor of the applicant, as am I. In Manitoga’s excellent children’s summer program, all the kids are taught not to litter, to pick up any litter they do find, to leave the land in at least as good shape as when they found it, and if possible, better. In short, they are taught to become good stewards of the land.
The applicant has given us no reassurance that he will leave the land as he found it. Evidence: John Cronin recently pointed out to me that today’s wind turbines will undoubtedly be obsolete in 25 to 35 years, or less. Advances in converting wind, solar, nuclear, and tidal energy, and conversion technologies not yet invented, will make this turbine as obsolete as a 25- to 35-year-old car. Then what? Whoever owns this wind turbine at that time will turn it off. A metal tower as high as a 15-story building will be left in the forest, a rusting hulk for centuries, literally, unless this Zoning Board requires the owner to dismantle and remove it and restore the land on which it stood to the condition before it went up.
My specific recommendation: A sinking fund (or bond) must be established by the owner as part of the approval process. The funds will be controlled by Philipstown. The trigger to remove the turbine would be when the monthly maintenance reports, signed and notarized by the inspecting engineer and the owner proving proper ongoing care of the turbine, stop. The reports will be sent to the Zoning Board every month. When they have not been received for three months, the Zoning Board will immediately authorize companies chosen by it, not the owner, to remove the turbine and restore the land. Funded removal will be a bulletproof condition of the special use permit. The board must, as good stewards of the land for all of us, be responsible for the condition of the land when the turbine’s useful life is over. The principle is, use it or lose it AND remove it. Or, as Manitoga says, ‘Carry in-carry out.’
2. Carbon footprint cost
I talked with Bob Boyle recently. Boyle, who hired John Cronin to be the second Riverkeeper in 1983, has done more than any person to save the Hudson River. In the mid-1960s, he founded the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and created the Riverkeeper program. There are now over 200 Riverkeepers, Baykeepers, Soundkeepers, Bayoukeepers all over the world. His testimony helped stop the desecration of Storm King Mountain. He is a tough, no-nonsense ex-Marine who lived in Cold Spring for many years.
Bob pointed out that apart from the carbon costs of the wind turbine itself, there are other carbon costs:
a. Trucks carrying the maintenance inspector must be driven to and from this wind turbine every month for 25 to 35 years. That will include grinding up the long, steep and switchbacked driveway, and burning brake pads on the way down. Twelve trips a year is 360 trips over 30 years. That’s a lot of fuel and material none of which would need to be consumed if this wind turbine did not exist. How much does all that cost?
b. The factory where turbines are built must itself be built, heated, lit, air conditioned, cleaned and maintained (and eventually dismantled).
As Boyle said, nothing’s free anymore. The wind is, but converting it with machines isn’t. It’s up to us to understand the true costs before we put these machines up.
This applicant hasn’t understood the costs. He’d rather shoot (build) first and ask questions about the true costs later. I’d be delighted to put him in touch with Bob Boyle. Bob would love to talk to him.
3. Not enough wind
Andy Chmar of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust made several excellent points at the recent Zoning Board meeting questioning the viability of the wind turbine.
One was common sense: there isn’t enough wind in the applicant’s location to make a single wind turbine viable. I know. I live right next door. There aren’t 20 days in a hundred when the wind blows hard enough to make it worthwhile, and there aren’t five nights in a hundred. It’s calm here at night.
Chmar provided wind charts prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy showing where there is enough wind to make wind turbines truly viable. It’s upstate where commercial wind turbine farms are already producing mega-watts of energy that any Central Hudson customer can easily secure as their energy supply, thus helping reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and building a more commercially viable market without significantly impacting the most scenic landscapes across Philipstown.
4. Historic value of the Highlands
During our War of Independence, George Washington spent more time here in the Hudson Highlands than anywhere else because he knew that if we lost control of the Hudson River, we could never win the war. If we controlled it, the British could never win. The lynchpin was control of the river at West Point.
From 1778 to 1780, the brilliant [Tadeusz] Kosciuszko designed and built the defense system of 13 redoubts on both sides of the river. He beefed up two forts on the bluffs at West Point and added batteries along the river’s shores. His knock-out punch was the Great Chain. No British admiral ever sent warships up through the gauntlet of crossfire that would have blown his fleet to bits. This is as important a historic site for America as Valley Forge. What would we think if the Zoning Board there approved Valley Forge to be ringed with wind turbines?
My recommendation: Create a No Wind Turbine Zone along the river from the county line to the south up to the north line. No turbines should be allowed which can be seen from the river or from the ridges looking toward the river. Anywhere else in Philipstown, fine.
My greatest fear: If they allow one, can they really turn others away? Where does it stop? Do we want to see 40 or 50 wind turbines on Constitution Island, driven by the wind coming down or up through the funnel between the ridges? The Department of Defense may take a page out of our book in Philipstown if we allow turbines in my recommended No Turbine Zone. How would we stop them? We couldn’t. And what a blow to tourism here.
5. Four experts, all protectors of the Hudson River Valley
There are four environmental experts whom I hope the Zoning Board will consult before making their decision.
1. John Cronin (see Point 2) has spent almost 40 years protecting our HRV environment. He founded, ran and now teaches at the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries at Denning’s Point. He won the Jefferson Prize, which has been called the Nobel Prize for environmental work. He is one of the best environmental scientists in the U.S. He lives in Cold Spring, less than a mile from Town Hall.
The applicant has not thought to ask Cronin, his Philipstown neighbor, about the environmental impact of wind turbines here. It would not be difficult for the applicant to find Cronin and ask questions. Although he’s not interested, our Zoning Board must be interested. Cronin lives less than a mile from Town Hall. Let’s not waste this extraordinary resource!
2. John Adams lived in Garrison for many years. In 1970 he founded and then for 36 years ran the National Resources Defense Council, with now more than a million members. In February 2011, Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom — our nation’s highest civilian honor. He now lives further upstate, but not far.
3. Boyle, mentioned above, is still on the forefront of protecting the environment. Both Adams and Cronin hold him in awe. He also lives upstate.
4. Alan Milton, resident of Croton. In the mid 1970s, Milton helped write SEQRA, the State Environmental Quality Review Act. He knows it cold, including the appeals process.
The applicant has not thought to ask these experts about the viability of his wind turbine. The board has listened to the applicant and his experts. Now it’s our environment’s turn. The board may be able to save much time, and all of us in Philipstown much money spent on lengthy legal hassles, by talking to environmental experts as well.
To conclude: The board has worked hard and with much patience for almost a year listening to our arguments. I hope the board will continue to do all the research needed to come to a well thought out decision about something that will effect us all for many years to come.