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Lake Erie Wind Farm: Face Off Over Pollution, Birds And Jobs

Carl Scheutzow testifies at Thursday's public hearing [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

About 40 people testified Thursday night at a public hearing on a potential offshore wind farm in Lake Erie.

The majority of people who spoke at Cleveland City Hall presented favorable testimony to the Ohio Power Siting Board, who will take public comments into account before the board makes its decision whether to certify the project. The state agency’s staff recently released a report advising the board to approve the project and suggested 34 recommendations to the company developing the project.

“I urge the people of this area and the Ohio Power Siting Board to approve this project not only for the water we drink, the air we breathe, but the jobs created that will allow workers to provide for their family,” said Carl Scheutzow, a Medina fisherman, boater, and solar consultant.

LEEDCo passed out stickers to supporters [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

Detractors of the wind farm came from as far away as Canada and Pennsylvania.

Several of those opposing the project expressed concerns about transparency and communication from the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo), the company developing the wind farm. Some worried the hundreds of jobs promised from the project would be temporary, and others feared the 6-turbine project could grow to thousands of turbines scattered across the lake.

A 2010 economic impact study from LEEDCo explores a potential timeline for the installation of up to 1500 turbines on Lake Erie.

Several environmental groups, including the National Audobon Society, supported the project with the condition that LEEDCo implement the recommendations included in the OPSB staff report. One staff condition suggests LEEDCo shut the turbines down from dusk to dawn from March through January until the project can demonstrate its bird and bat collision monitoring plan is “sufficient”.

There was a small contingent of support from Cleveland construction groups, including former Youngstown Building Trades president Don Crane.

“I’ll sympathize for a moment with the bird people because I love chicken at my mom’s on Sundays and I love Thanksgiving,” said Crane. “But I have to level with you – to have extinct building trades members in Cleveland, Ohio, isn’t going to help anyone out.”

Earlier this week, the Lake Erie Marina Trades Association came out publicly against the project. The group represents marina operators across northern Ohio.

“We look at Lake Erie and say it’s too valuable to too many Ohioans to risk its health on this type of project,” said Bryan Ralston, the group’s president.

“This project has way too many questions.”

Tom Wasilewski of Edinboro, PA wore a shirt that says "No wind turbines on Lake Erie" [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

Andy Krotseng, a long-time boater and member of the Interlake Yachting Association, worries about possible navigational hazards and “the pollution that we’re going to turn up from the bottom” during construction of the turbines.

“Now I know the [OPSB] report says there isn’t going to be any,” said Krotseng. “But I just can’t fathom it.”