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The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhoods. Birds, blooms, bugs & more - each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
July 12, 2013

Wednesday was a wet day along the east shore of Lake Ontario so we set out to explore Tug Hill Plateau. I studied some maps before leaving the cottage and we picked Lowville NY as the destination, about 50 miles away. I saw a couple back roads that looked promising.  Anytime I get to see wildflowers like these Canadian Lilies, I know I found the right route.

We eventually learned that we were in the Tug Hill State Forest - 12,242 acres of abandoned farmland the state bought cheap back in the 30s and planted with white spruce, white pine and red pine. Maples and ash and lots of wild apple trees are interspersed. Grandson had to try one of the little green apples.

Travelling down Old State Rd thru the forest, there are a series of hills with wetlands between. Here is a small pond. Kinda nice in the summer, lots of snow in the winter.

Visit Tug Hill

The area, because of its landform and location east of Lake Ontario, has the perfect conditions for lake effect snowstorms. These storms are responsible for the majority of the 200-300 inches of snow which fall each year, turning the region into a winter wonderland. The heavy snowfall is one of Tug Hill’s greatest recreational assets.
Much more below the orange snowstorm.

Here's a map of NY showing the major geological formations.

And another map showing the state in relief.

Typical view of the landscape

In places where hardwoods are established, ferns and mayapples are abundant on the foresat floor. This is a False Solomon's Seal that bloomed early in the spring.

All is not well up on Tug Hill - from The Nature Conservancy, threats to Tug Hill include:

   Past timber harvesting practices have altered forest composition in places and reduced the amount of mature forest habitat
    Increased recreational use pressure
    Conversion of forests and wetlands for residential, recreational and commercial development
    Atmospheric deposition
    Climate change
    Invasive species
    Wind farm development within the core forest
Wind farms - wind towers - we were surprised and excited to see these when we got off the forest road and back on SR 177. Locals probably thought we were nuts pulling over to get photos.

Farther along we found an access road we could turn into for a better view. This is looking east to the Adirondack Mts hiding way way off behind the clouds.

WIND TOWERS

Located in Lewis County primarily on the Tug Hill Plateau, the Maple Ridge Wind Farm harnesses the wind power. The constant lake-effect winds and the wide open farmland of Lewis County make the Tug Hill region an ideal place for one of New York’s largest wind energy farm.

Tug Hill is an ideal location for a wind energy project. This site consists of approximately 12,000 acres of hilltop pasture and feed-crop land at an average elevation of 1600-1800 feet. Tug Hill is an ancient geologic formation that lies just downwind of the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, separated from the Adirondacks to the east by the Black River Valley. At a maximum elevation of 2000 feet above sea level, the Tug Hill plateau experiences strong lake-effect weather patterns and has long been known for its exceptional wind resource.

Turbine Information

Modern wind turbine generators are robust, sophisticated high-tech machines designed to convert the power of the wind into electricity.

Main Components: The tower, the nacelle (machine house atop the tower), and the rotor
Height of Flat Rock Wind Turbine Towers: 260 feet
Rotor Blade Length: 130 feet
Rotor Blade Speed: 14 RPM (revolutions per minute)

We heard the whoosh of the blades.

The large blades on the turbines definitely generated sound, which fluctuated between quiet, to quite loud when standing at the same location and depending on the velocity of the wind, which fluctuated continually in short periods of time. The reported “whoosh” to a “thumping” was witnessed by all of us throughout the day.
I spotted a few farms and houses for sale, abandoned and not selling.
This article really nails the downside of wind power.
Wind farms require a large project area, often a substantial portion of the land area of a rural town. Each wind farm requires multiple turbines, and each turbine requires an access road that can accommodate a 500-ton crane to construct the turbine, as well as the clearing of many acres around each turbine and the installation of miles of transmission lines.

Wind farms change drainage patterns and diminish water quality by silting up creeks, ponds, and wetlands. Crossing the countryside with access roads and transmission lines can fragment habitat and divert wildlife populations away from the area.

Operation of wind turbines kills birds and bats. In 2007, 50 windmills on the Tug Hill Plateau in northern New York killed 123 birds and 326 bats in five months.

2012 -- NY's largest wind farm, the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County with 195 turbines on the Tug Hill Plateau, has been sold twice since operations began in 2005 and is now owned by the Spanish energy giant Iberdrola.

Instead of competing with other generators of electricity on the open market, wind farms are guaranteed the wholesale price for the electricity they generate, whether it's needed or not, and it is ratepayers, not the wind development companies, who pay the added costs on the electric grid management system.

Wind farms diminish property values, offsetting gains to the host town by decreasing its property tax base. Realtors in towns where wind farms have been installed report a decline in property values on properties within sight of the turbines because of the visual and noise impacts. In some communities the wind company has had to buy homes of complaining homeowners and sell them at fire sale prices, which is cheaper than a nuisance lawsuit. Local laws allowing setbacks less than a mile set the stage for divisive litigation because landowners who don't sign an easement agreement can still sue the company for allowing a nuisance.

Wait - there is more. Here's this plateau holding all this water, streams and ponds everywhere, so of course, that is a great place for a landfill. This article from last winter talks about the stinking methane gas release. That is not bad enough so add a 146-acre expansion on the south end of the current 78 acres.
We drove thru the tiny village of Rodman - turned down Church St and then back on School Rd. That was it - a mile loop with a couple dozen nice houses, a ball field and a paved walking trail around the town. Nice place - except for the landfill up the road and above the town.

We learned a lot on the day trip. Good things (nature) corrupted by bad things (man). How about y'all? Anything going on in your area? The Daily Bucket is now open for your thoughts and observations...

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"Green Diary Rescue" is Back!

After a hiatus of over 1 1/2 years, Meteor Blades has revived his excellent series.  As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of the hard work so many Kossacks put into bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... I'll be starting out with some commentary of my own on an issue related to the environment, a word I take in its broadest meaning."

"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 08:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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