Letters: Reaction to Suffolk County Water Authority’s wind turbine plan

02/02/2012 4:00 AM |


It’s not a ‘gotcha’

In regard to last week’s editorial on our proposed wind turbine for our property near Laurel Lake, the idea sprung not from the nefarious motives you’ve attributed to us, but rather our desire to create SCWA’s first energy-independent public water supply facility and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the site by 104 metric tons annually.

We’re seeking to lead by example in the promotion and use of renewable energy sources.

Far from playing “gotcha,” as you suggest, the site was chosen because it’s one of our largest land holdings, enabling us to provide a better buffer to nearby properties than at virtually any other property we own.

When you consider, additionally, that a wind turbine of identical dimensions is located just 1.4 miles from the site, and another is 6.5 miles away, it’s a bit difficult to see how our interest in the site could be interpreted as a desire to “stick it to the town.”

The SCWA in 2012 is not the arrogant, up-island agency depicted in your editorial. We are willing to listen to Town of Southold residents, and we are doing so. We informed local leaders of our intentions, and we held a public hearing to listen to the input of town residents.

We appreciate the feedback we received, and we are continuing to evaluate the proposal with your concerns and comments at the forefront of our discussions.

James Gaughran
chairman, Suffolk County Water Authority


What’s the benefit?

Are there really any advantages to a wind turbine? I unknowingly thought so until I had to quickly educate myself when I heard the Suffolk County Water Authority intended to place one at perhaps my favorite place on earth, Laurel Lake and the adjacent preserve.

What surfaced from my research were government studies, newspaper stories and scientific data that covered installations gone awry from Maine to California, as well as all over Europe. Wind turbines can create serious issues depending on where they are situated. It’s all about location, location, location.

The most basic issue here is SCWA’s inappropriate choice for the placement of a wind turbine in an area that is a clean water source for the North Fork and Suffolk. The area is a heavily wooded, pristine preserve bordered by residences and also home to all manner of plants, birds and wildlife.

I am concerned about the health hazards from noise, vibrations and infrasound that can cause neurological problems, sleep deprivation, visual disturbances and even developmental issues in children one mile away. Data also suggests that there is a very real threat of fire from a malfunction of the turbine itself and a highly increased risk of fire from lightning strikes.

A fire atop a 150-foot turbine complicated and fueled by 200 pounds of hydraulic fluid cannot be handled by the local fire department, which lacks the foam and equipment to reach that height. The fire would easily spread and jump across the canopy of trees, engulfing the preserve and endangering homes on Laurel Lake, The Cottages, Laurel Links and the Estates, and maybe even as far as Farmveu.

The threat of fire would be constant and the residents and fire department would be helpless, with no hydrants anywhere and almost no access or egress in and out of this area. All of these hazards exist, yet there is no solid evidence of a cost benefit. To make matters worse, there will be nearly two decades until a payout, maybe longer. Evidence from Europe, where they have been using windpower far longer, is showing no cost savings due to irregularities in the power grid that have to be balanced due to the vagaries of wind thrust. Even more fossil fuel is consumed to balance the grid. Gone are cost or environmental savings.

Is this a case of the emperor’s new clothes? It sure looks like it. But Laurel Lake is not the place for a test site. It is way too important to Mattituck and the entire North Fork to endanger this environmentally precious spot.

Terry Koch-Bostic


Still a local matter

The Suffolk County Water Authority is again taking its “mandate” too far.

The SCWA is not, as they define themselves in their environmental assessment of the proposed wind turbine at Laurel Lake, a “governmental unit.” It is, as their own website states, “an independent public-benefit corporation.” As such, they have no right to bypass Southold Town review or approval processes.

There are many facets to the turbine controversy, such as the environmental impacts on the Laurel Lake Preserve and effects on wildlife, but all are trumped by the concept of home rule. Only Southold Town should have the final say what is and is not built in Southold.

The preservation of Laurel Lake, including its scenic views, wildlife and overall setting are part of Southold Town’s plan and ongoing work. It is not within the SCWA’s purview to determine whether or not the proposed turbine impacts the town’s plan or interests. If they are allowed to overrule the town’s interest, then who’s to say what they can or cannot do elsewhere?

The North Fork Environmental Council recognizes the benefits wind turbine technology has in partially addressing our world’s dependency on fossil fuels, and supports its use, but only where appropriate and where its impact on all other aspects of the environment is comprehensively assessed and minimized.

The SCWA’s own environmental assessment form notes in Part B, item 20, that the proposed project will “substantially affect non-threatened or non-endangered species.” These potential impacts, recognized by all sides, require further study and discussion.

Before any work moves ahead, a comprehensive environmental review should be undertaken and the resulting environmental impact study should serve as the basis of deciding whether this turbine can not only safely coexist with wildlife in the surrounding Laurel Lake preserve and wetlands, but also coexist with Southold Town’s plans and efforts to preserve the natural beauty of Laurel Lake and the surrounding area.

Southold residents cannot remain silent on this effort to usurp the town’s right to control what is built within its borders.

Bill Toedter
president, North Fork Environmental Council


Turbines are needed

The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College would like to express its support for the Suffolk County Water Authority’s proposed Southold wind turbine project to be located in Laurel.

Given the serious global problem of climate change and the need to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on foreign fuel sources, there is a need for increased use of renewable energy sources by all sectors.

Wind turbines produce clean, local, emission-free energy, thereby achieving both goals. Renewable energy also helps reduce pressure on the local electric grid, thereby reducing the need for the construction of more fossil fuel-based power plants.

There are many myths about wind, including noise, bird kills and aesthetic impacts. Baseless statements from uninformed people should not just be printed without fact-checking and also including a more well-rounded perspective. Factual information on how wind turbines operate is widely available.

A great resource is www.windworks4li.org, where you can find “myth vs. facts” information, as well as a listing of coalition members who support wind for Long Island.

Numerous land-based wind turbines are currently installed here in the United States, as well as in Europe, and wind is a fast-growing industry. The U.S. has 46,919 MW of cumulative wind capacity through the end of 2011. In fact, Half Hollow Nursery, right in Laurel, is the location for a 100kw wind turbine which was installed in 2010.

We strongly urge you and any interested parties to visit that site and use their experience as an example.

Neal Lewis
executive director


The human price

As my husband, Mark, and I first drove down Laurel Way 31 years ago we had no idea what lie ahead.

We had come in response to an ad for a house for sale on Laurel Lake. Never having heard of a lake in this area, we were stunned to discover this pristine paradise less than two hours from New York City. In fact, so overwhelming was our response, that by the end of the day, we had come to terms with the owner of the house.

Over the years we spent every weekend, from Friday to Monday, coming to our retreat, away from the hustle of the city, to where the silence enveloped us and the clean air sustained us.

We would spend hours sitting at the lake, watching the birds and enjoying the return of the kingbirds to their favorite tree, year after year, waiting for the babies to become mature enough to fly off on their own. One year, because we were unable to be there for two weeks, robins had built their nest near the door to the deck, which was our summer living room. Afraid that we would cause them to abandon their young if we were to open the door frequently, we decided not to use the deck until they had left. What a treat.

Every winter, we would await the arrival of the beautiful canvasback ducks and sit outside, bundled up, enjoying their antics. In the summer I spend hours swimming, on my back, watching the hundreds of swallows swooping over the lake, feeding on the surface insects. I once had the awesome experience of having an osprey check me out, so close I could have counted every feather.

Our kids came out whenever they could, never asking if it was OK, just feeling that it was theirs too. As a family we grew even closer having this warm, rich environment. Now our grandchildren, who are growing up having this idyllic place to call home, consider it a birthright. Thinking ahead, my granddaughter told me the other day that her children must grow up there also.

I’ve recounted our family history as it relates to Laurel Lake to emphasize what the loss of this precious environment would mean to the many residents fortunate enough to call this special place home. The erection of a wind turbine by the Suffolk County Water Authority adjacent to the Laurel Lake Preserve would bring to an end bird migration, serenity, physical well-being and a sense of peace that is becoming rare in this world.

It’s time for the SCWA to think in terms of human values and not questionable dollars and cents.

Marjorie Gross


Take a hard look

Each August, my husband, daughter and I travel to my cousin’s house to enjoy an idyllic family gathering around a pristine North Fork lake — Laurel Lake. The setting is so peaceful that we have been considering moving from California to live there permanently.

With great chagrin, we heard this week that the Suffolk County Water Authority, which owns the adjacent tract, is attempting to install a 125-foot wind turbine. This has been undertaken in a rather fast and covert manner and only by luck did the lakeside property owners become aware of their intention.

If this were going to be an asset to the community, it would have been pursued in a more reflective manner with adequate research and community outreach. There is a new picture emerging in my imagination; the lake, sunsets and a wind turbine with ducks being sucked in. Needless to say, we will be rethinking any sudden real estate investment.

But it’s not only aesthetic considerations that make this proposal questionable and ripe for re-examination. The heavily wooded location, the wildlife, the inaccessible unpaved road may not be appropriate for wind turbines, which seem to catch fire with alarming regularity. These inaccessible fires are not put out, but allowed to burn out to the detriment of people, homes, trees, plants and wildlife.

It would seem that proper consideration be given to the wildlife living in and around the lake, as well as to the homeowners surrounding the lake whose lives and property values will be adversely affected by this change.

There needs to be a thorough examination of all the possible effects, both positive and negative, of this sudden environmental transformation. I don’t think anyone really imagines noisy, intrusive and potentially dangerous turbines in an area such as this one.

Why is this proposal being rushed through?

Alisa Taylor and Ron Hutchinson