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Battle on the Great Lakes Rages On

When the first offshore wind turbine installation in fresh water was granted a permit by the Ohio Power Siting Board last year, it was presumed the battle to save the waters of Lake Erie from industrialization was lost. Wrong!

Known as the Icebreaker Wind development slated for offshore of Cleveland’s lakefront, the fight by boating and fishing interests to prevent the industrialization of Lake Erie simply shifted to a new front line — money.

The developer of Icebreaker admits it doesn’t have the necessary funds to build and is looking for the rest of the money. The center of the current battle is the Ohio General Assembly where boating and fishing groups like the Boating Associations of Ohio are vigorously opposing any attempt to provide funds to the turbine project.

“This entire proposal, which has been around for 12 years now, has been based on false claims and exaggerated expectations,” explains Michelle Burke, BAO’s executive director, “and the negative environmental impacts and economic realities about offshore turbines just keep coming from around the world. They make it obvious the threats to the largest freshwater ecosystem on the planet are totally unacceptable.”

The many organizations opposing turbines in any of the 5 Great Lakes point to a litany of problems. In the environmental arena, for example, Icebreaker was granted a permit while ducking the need for a full Environmental Impact Statement, something mandated for every other proposed offshore turbine project on the East Coast.

To that point, Great Lakes interests contend the lead federal permitting agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, violated federal law by rubber stamping the Icebreaker project without an EIS.

Meanwhile, no detailed studies have been undertaken to determine the negative impact on fishing in Lake Erie, regarded as the “Walleye Capital” with its world-class recreational angling. It’s multiple-species fisheries also attract millions of tourist dollars annually. Moreover, no one has assessed the impact of the installation of the miles of transmission cables that will emit sound and electro-magnetic fields to be released from the lake’s bottom.

“We need only look to Ontario, Canada (which has a moratorium on wind turbines covering 4 of the Great Lakes) or European countries for the latest discoveries that clearly indicate the dangers and drawbacks of putting turbines in the Great Lakes,” Burke emphasizes. “The myriad of negatives there shine a spotlight on what we must avoid here.”

For example, in France it’s been discovered that wind turbines can jam military radar signals. Accordingly, no turbines are now permitted within a 43-mile-radius of such a radar installation. Note, Icebreaker would be less than eight miles from a Cleveland lakefront airport.

In New York, the State Conservation Council is following Canada’s lead in calling for a moratorium on any turbines in the lakes. It notes 11 million people are dependent upon Lake Erie for drinking water and cites the dramatic increase in fishing in the last 50 years. The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is also urging the moratorium.

In Europe, Denmark saw the first offshore wind facility built one-and-a-half miles offshore, and later the first utility-scale offshore facility there. But instead of producing “free energy” with purportedly “endless sea breezes,” Denmark’s offshore operators are now delivering a tale of economic woes. Similarly, lower wind speeds and more cable problems in the United Kingdom’s wind farms are triggering consideration of new policies about developing nuclear and gas facilities.

“Clearly there should not be a blind rush to hand out either Ohio taxpayer or more federal dollars to Icebreaker that should never have been allowed to skip an EIS,” Burke is preaching to lawmakers. “The Icebreaker project is critical because it is to trigger construction of up to 1,600 turbines in Lake Erie, and an unknown number in other Great Lakes.

“The developer’s claim,” continues Burke, “that Icebreaker will be good for our economy and our environment has less to justify its existence today than the crank telephone! After 50 years of cleanup, restoration and huge investments of funds and human capital, our lawmakers cannot be steamrolled into providing funds to unsupported claims of job growth and reliable low-cost energy.

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