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New battle for Lake Erie starts tonight

Ohio boating organizations will pack a hearing of the Ohio Power Siting Board to blast a recommendation that would give the green light to build wind turbines off Cleveland.

It will be the first barrage in an all-out battle to save Lake Erie. Ohio boating organizations will pack a hearing of the Ohio Power Siting Board tonight to blast an OPSB staff recommendation that would give the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. the green light to build wind turbines off Cleveland — a project known as Icebreaker.

“The staff recommendation to approve Icebreaker, even taking into account noted conditions, should be rejected outright by the OPSB’s seven voting members,” Tom Mack, chairman of the 100-member Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, will tell the hearing. “What’s missing is the most critical analysis of all — whether there is any justification to risk impairing an already fragile Lake Erie by blighting it with industrial-size windmills.”

Other large boating groups, including the Boating Associations of Ohio and the Greater Cleveland Boating Association, will join LEMTA in declaring that most people haven’t been given enough information about LEEDCo’s initial six-turbine demonstration plan. The end game is to stimulate construction of hundreds more turbines in Lake Erie.

Ohio boaters and anglers will voice critical concerns about the construction and operation of the 500-foot-tall turbines. They will pose serious navigational hazards. Moreover, while they won’t be sited in commercial shipping lanes, building hundreds of turbines will monopolize huge areas of water that will be designated closed to boating and fishing for security reasons.

“Myriad other environmental issues add even more red flags,” says Bryan Ralston, executive director of the Boating Associations of Ohio. “It’s known that a new giant suction cup technology will be employed to build the towers. This will result in the release of caustic substances currently dormant in the lake’s bottom sediment. In addition, no attention is being paid to similar results when laying the transmission lines from the towers to the electric grid on shore, disturbing many more miles of sediment and threatening the 21 million people who get their drinking water from Lake Erie.”

That’s just the beginning of the environmental dark side. It’s also known that collisions with land-based turbines in many areas of the country are killing thousands of birds and bats annually, including bald eagles. It’s almost a certainty that turbines in Lake Erie would be in violation of the Migratory Birds Treaty Act.

The American Bird Conservancy contends the Great Lakes are among the worst possible places to install wind turbines. Lake Erie, in particular, is known to be a major migrating flyway as well as a major habitat for water birds. In fact, the lake was recently designated a Globally Important Bird Area because of the large numbers of water foul.

Finally, testimony at the hearing will contend that people haven’t been told that the economic value of Icebreaker simply isn’t there and never will be. Indeed, LEEDCo has existed for more than a decade solely because $50 million in taxpayer-funded grants have enriched the few connected to it. It could never stand on its own. Just the need for backup reserve energy for times when the wind doesn’t blow enough will greatly increase the capital and operating costs of this offshore wind power. Unknown maintenance issues, especially during Lake Erie’s frozen winter, will make offshore turbines even less reliable.

The Department of Energy estimates that the cost of wind is least 20 percent higher than the natural gas to which large numbers of power plants have already switched. And, the United States holds the largest reserves of cheap, clean-burning natural gas in the world. In addition, the cost to install a wind turbine in the water is about seven times the cost of a similar installation on land. The claim that wind power renders cheaper electricity is not true and won’t hold up for offshore wind farms.

“Our highest priority should be to protect our natural resource,” says Mack. “Lake Erie has a unique frontage for many Ohio communities, with resorts, parks, marinas, campgrounds, beaches and more. The pure vista of its unbroken horizon attracts tourists from around the world and contributes billions of dollars to our Ohio economy. Having hundreds of 500-foot spinning towers destroying that picture should make any question of offshore wind farms in Lake Erie moot.”

In the mold of America’s Naval commander, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who decisively defeated the larger British fleet in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie, this newest battle is already uniting a broad range of groups, from labor to lawmakers, intent on defeating this attempt to blight Lake Erie.

LEMTA is urging written comments opposing Icebreaker.



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