No winds of change

REEDSVILLE – In the shadow of Jacks Mountain a group of people gathered Tuesday at the Mifflin County Airport’s Soaring Association Clubhouse to discuss the potential impact of a proposed wind farm on the mountain.

The mountain, which lies nearly in the geographic center of the county, straddles several townships and so far two companies have acquired leases from 19 landowners.

The two companies, VolksWind and E.on, have acquired lease rights on 582 acres of land on Jacks Mountain, which spans Union, Menno, Oliver, Granville and Wayne townships in Mifflin County, as well as Brady Township in Huntingdon County.

Laura Jackson, president of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, said Tuesday that a test tower is up in Granville Township collecting data for one of the companies. She said it usually takes a number of years to collect the data.

Jackson said these companies didn’t think they would run into much community resistance, but that appears to be changing.

On Aug. 5, the Union Township Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance which provides safe guards for landowners as well as many restrictions on how and where a company may build a wind turbine.

“Some of these turbines can be 500 feet tall,” Jackson said.

This group now has it’s sights set on Granville Township, where they plan to approach the board in the near future.

Jackson said the initial leases that landowners signed off on ranged from five to nine years, after which time the companies seek out an operating lease for 30 years.

Some of the members plan to approach landowners on Jacks Mountain and encourage them not to renew their agreements.

Jackson said it can be tough to convince people to turn down the financial incentives these companies offer.

There are many different reasons this group is opposed to the construction of what could end up being at least 20 wind turbines.

For starters, Jacks Mountain lies on the migrating flight path of thousands of raptors. Last year alone, 5,884 raptors were counted migrating over the mountain, representing 15 species.

There also is a conflict with the airport itself, the turbines could pose a risk to low flying planes and hang gliders, which use Jacks Mountain as a launching area.