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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 9, 2009
Helderberg Community Watch forms alliance with Schoharie Valley Watch
By Zach Simeone
HILLTOWNS Helderberg Community Watch and Schoharie Valley Watch, two local community watchdog organizations that seek to inform their neighbors about the pros and cons of wind energy, have formed an alliance.
“It’s a matter of sharing resources,” said Dawn Jordan, Berne resident and organizer for Helderberg Community Watch. Schoharie Valley Watch, Jordan said, “helped us out a lot before we formed our group.”
“I think we’re both facing the same issues,” said Co-Director Bob Nied of the two groups, “and our communities are adjacent to each other.” Schoharie Valley Watch, based in neighboring Schoharie County, has existed as a not-for-profit organization for close to three years, said Nied.
Helderberg Community Watch, based in Albany County, was formed last year after Shell WindEnergy contacted landowners about putting commercial wind turbines on their properties. Shell has since withdrawn its plans, but other companies are now interested.
Dawn and Ronald Jordan were approached by Shell last fall and, shortly after, organized Helderberg Community Watch. “And we’ve grown from that, and we’re continuing to do research, and are attending town meetings in the Hilltowns,” Mrs. Jordan said.
“We started doing research, and realized that the deal [Shell offered] was not a good one, and the information they were giving us about wind turbines in general was not the whole story,” Jordan said. “We found out they were approaching different people, not telling everyone who they were approaching, and were changing their spiel as they were going along.”
In looking through the contract offered by Shell, the Jordans found a map that labeled the intended wind-power site. “So, we could kind of figure out who [Shell] had been talking to,” Jordan said. “We started to get together with neighbors and decided we needed to form some sort of community advocacy group.”
Since then, the two have been active in researching the pros and cons of wind energy and bringing that information to the community.
“We’re getting information out to friends and neighbors,” Jordan said. “We’ve got DVDs and fliers that we’ve put in local stores here. We’ve gone to Knox and put things on people’s doors, and try to just put the word out that people need to do their own research.”
In Schoharie County, residents have reported being approached by Reunion Power in the same fashion as Albany County residents were approached by Shell.
“We see the same players involved in the push to develop industrial wind sites, particularly Reunion Power,” said Nied. The company’s website describes it as having expertise in “wind power and bio-mass technologies.” Albany County Legislator Sandy Gordon is an employee of Reunion Power. [See related story.]
“So, we’re trying to share resources and experiences, and we may ultimately end up sharing a legal approach as well,” Nied said. “We’re just trying to protect the rural character of our community.”
Neither Schoharie Valley Watch nor Helderberg Community Watch holds regular meetings.
“We do a lot of talking on the phone,” Jordan said of Helderberg Community Watch.
“We don’t even really have members, per se,” Nied said of Schoharie Valley Watch. “We have various sessions when there’s a topic we think we can share with the community.”
These “sessions,” Nied said, might serve to inform residents on the process that a wind developer might go through when looking to bring commercial wind power into a municipality, including environmental reviews, the developer’s interaction with local zoning and planning boards, and how residents can be involved in the process.
“Our goal really is to make sure that proposals like these industrial wind proposals are handled openly, above board, and that local towns do a complete and thorough review,” said Nied. “We’re concerned about environmental impacts, and that the interest of the residents are considered in the forefront rather than just the interest of the developers. And that’s a common concern we share with Helderberg Community Watch,” he said.
Jordan agreed “I guess you could say there’s strength in numbers,” she said.