Business and environmental groups are not always on the same side, but when it comes to Lake Ontario’s shores, there is some common ground.
The POWER (Protecting Ontario's Water, Environment and Resources) Coalition includes a variety of groups, including Save Ontario Shores, the American Bird Conservancy and Niagara USA Chamber. It was formed to oppose the Lighthouse Wind project.
Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville, VA wants to build as many as 70 wind turbines, each up to 620' tall, along the Lake Ontario shore in Somerset and Yates. Niagara USA Chamber Executive Director Kory Schuler said the key to future projects is smart development and the turbine project it is not smart development.
"Each of those turbines have to have a fall zone, which I believe is double the size of the turbine," said Schuler. "You take a community like Somerset and you start placing those around the community, and you include the size of the turbine and the fall zone, that's taking up a lot of their land, a lot of farmland, a lot that possibly could be used for development to create a better tax base."
There are also lingering questions about the project's impact on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. Schuler said originally, the thought was the turbines would interfere with the training flight plans, but that has been mostly dispelled. The effect on the air base’s radar remains a concern.
"The Air Base, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, is the largest employer in Niagara County," Schuler said. "We've all thought very long and hard to keep that base open during various BRACs [Base Realignment and Closures], re-commissionings. We don't want to do see anything done that in any way shape or form jeopardizes that air base and what it does for the Niagara County economy."
Schuler said as a business chamber, their first priority is looking out for the economic well-being of Niagara County. He said not all development is good development.
"The waterfront and the townhouses that Ciminelli's looking at Building, and instead of saying just 'yes' or 'no,' let's look at this. Let's make it the best. How can we make this fit?" Schuler said. "You look at things like re-use of Children's Hospital. All those land-use issues, we've come to know that the old way of just putting a shovel in the ground, isn't always the best way."