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Hopes are high for Port of Albany’s future thanks to major wind project

Port of Albany
Port of Albany
Port of Albany

In January 2021, officials celebrated the selection of the Port of Albany as the first offshore wind tower manufacturing site in the United States. Here is an update as we approach the two-year mark.

The goal of the $357 million dollar project is to manufacture 150 offshore wind towers annually. Expectations included hundreds of new green energy jobs. Officials anticipated that Capital Region wind projects at the Ports of Albany and Coeymans will reap some $14 billion in investments.

Port Senior Construction Project Manager Roddy Yagan says the project is currently in a "pre-construction phase."

"We're also working in tandem preparing for construction with all the union workers and different trade packages we're bringing on through Gobain," Yagan said. "While we have permitting progressing forward, working through our engineering consultant teams."

In May some objections were raised over tree cutting on 80 acres known as Beacon Island, greenlighted by the Department of Environmental Conservation. A group of Glenmont residents including Nathaniel Gray sued the Port and the town of Bethlehem claiming they weren't given proper notification.

“Two years ago, most of us were in the throes of crisis, and weren't watching the daily newspaper on, you know, those kinds of things," Gray said. "And so many of the residents did not know, myself included, that this was occurring at all, until 80 plus acres of trees disappeared from our view. And then many of us saw things like, you know, several clusters of dead baby animals in our yard. And some folks have reported dust clouds, and I know I have neighbors who are having, their doctors have recommended their children get specific blood panels done. So that was the moment that we all discovered it and that moment was less than six months ago”

The Port recently filed to have the lawsuit dismissed.

“So the request for dismissal, I think is not in earnest, because they're not being forthright about the fact that the project was very much talked about to the community, in as limited manner as possible," said Gray. "And to be honest, something we feel is that they weaponized a pandemic, to keep a community misinformed or dis-informed about a project that that's going to have such a direct impact on all of our lives.”

CEO Richard Hendrick says it's in the hands of judicial system, and an environmental review is ongoing.

"Trees that were cut down, were done in accordance with regulations that we worked within, we had a timeframe in order to protect endangered species that may be moving into the area after the time that the trees were cut down, and that was that was the reason the northern long eared bat is known to come to that area," Hendrick said. "And they have a heavy a large base that they are able to nest in around here. So it was it was found that with the trees being cut down, it would not inhibit their nesting during the summer months."

Yagan says several evaluations have been accomplished.

“Part of the typical engineering review and design process are the environmental impact statements, environmental assessments," Yagan said. "We’ve developed and produced and submitted a draft GEIS, a final GEIS a draft supplemental EIS and a final supplemental EIS, all of those environmental impact statements. So in all of those studies and assessments, there's portions for wildlife life impact, groundwater, site, community visual assessments, there's traffic impacts, each one of these considerations is covered through the typical review process.

Hendrick adds the Port has taken steps to ensure its neighbors are not left behind, including an Environmental Justice Review.

"One of the things that we had to undertake was a review of an impact to the community that for generations has been left behind," said Hendrick. "The Ezra Prentice community is the closest housing complex that would be to this project. It's in the south end of the city of Albany. We work closely with both the town of Bethlehem the city of Albany and the residents of the Ezra Prentice homes, and the improvements that can be made to their labor options and available positions. We cleared, and even the New York State Attorney General gave the approval on the process that we took, where everything that could possibly impact the environmental justice community was addressed.”

Hendrick says the Port is preparing for construction to begin in the first quarter of 2024 as the review process continues.

“Responding to questions from any of the review agencies, supplying them with all the documentation that they need to make a successful approval of the permits that they are reviewing," Hendrick said. "And then, and we feel confident we will. Once we get those permits, there's a another step in the process where we have to give our notice of intent to proceed, but everybody will be on board. And that once the notice of intent to proceed for construction is filed, within that timeframe is required, the construction companies that are in line and have been hired will be shovel ready to go.”

Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven, a Democrat, says his excitement about the project hasn’t waned, and says it has already gone through the town review process.

“In my experience, there's usually a fair amount of back and forth between regulatory agencies and project applicants, so I'm not feeling angst about it, because I know that the state and federal agencies are going to hold the port as the project applicants to the highest standards, which is their responsibility, and that will allow them ultimately to move forward in a way that is good for the community and good for the environment and allows us to get this important green energy infrastructure in place,” VanLuven said.

Hendrick says an overall price for the project has yet to be determined. He warns the project is not immune to the inflation and supply chain disruption that the rest of the construction industry is experiencing.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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