Water Authority wants to build wind turbine near Laurel Lake; neighbors disapprove

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The water authority is planning to install a turbine similar to this one recently installed at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic.

A quiet fight is beginning against a 100 kilowatt turbine proposed by the Sufffolk County Water Authority at property it owns near Laurel Lake.

Neighbors of the lake learned early last week that the water authority was planning to erect a turbine at the site, and they banded together to attend a public hearing held by the water authority Thursday night at the Mattituck Free Library.

They’re now busy circulating letters opposed to the turbine, claiming it will pose a fire risk and hurt birds, while being an unsightly addition to the tranquil area of the preserve surrounding the lake.

The water authority maintains it can build the turbine without permits, said many residents who attended the meeting. Water Authority representatives were not immediately available for comment.

“The ramifications are extreme. In Europe, 880 fires were caused by wind turbines. Putting one in a wooded area is scary,” said Catherine Grillo, a neighbor of the lake who went to the public hearing. “The environmentalists will go crazy when this gets out. You can’t just obstruct a preserve.”

Terry Koch-Bostic, president of the Laurel Lake Homeowners Association, agrees fires are the community’s biggest concern. She said the dirt road on which most of the neighbors of the lake live is inaccessible by fire trucks, and firemen had to walk in to extinguish a recent fire that ignited when a tree went down onto live wires on the road.

“It’s a very real, terrifying thought,” she said. “A fire there could take out hundreds of acres of Suffolk County parkland and New York State conservation land. It would probably destroy all the homes in the area.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who attended the public hearing, said Town Attorney Martin Finnegan is looking into whether the town has any legal recourse to prevent the water authority from putting up the turbine.

“The water authority says it doesn’t have to comply with town code. We’re trying to determine, is the Suffolk County Water Authority subject to the town code?” he said. “The town attorney is looking into it now. The Town Board hasn’t taken a position yet.”

Currently, the town only allows wind turbines at bona fide agricultural operations, but the town Planning Board and Land Preservation Committees are reviewing potential changes that could allow renewable energy generation on municipal lands.

The Planning Board will discuss the issue this afternoon.

[email protected]