While Preservation Pennsylvania convenes a panel to evaluate places for listing on 2021 Pennsylvania At Risk, we continue to advocate for places already listed.
In 2010, idyllic Dutch Corner (Bedford County) merited Pennsylvania At Risk listing due to an intrusive wind turbine energy project that would have forever altered the character of the pristine agricultural area. Nestled in a valley cradled by Evitt’s Mountain, the picturesque area is in the heart of the state’s “fruit basket region.” In fact, tourism dollars attracted by the area’s rural beauty make a significant contribution to the local economy.
The wind turbine project that threatened Dutch Corner in 2010 was withdrawn in 2012 due to low energy prices and loss of federal subsidies. Dutch Corner was marked as “Saved,” however, the area is once again under threat. The Competitive Power Ventures’ (CPV) Kettle Wind Project proposes to build wind turbines on the ridge of Evitt’s Mountain. Construction and operation of these turbines would permanently impact the landscape, one of Bedford County’s most significant economic assets.
(Scroll down to see how you can help.)
Some local residents and the Save Our Allegheny Ridges (SOAR) group, including the local chapter: Friends of Bedford County Mountains, are working to protect their community and the landscape. They’re asking Bedford Township supervisors to update the municipality’s antiquated wind energy ordinance that was enacted in 2010 based on a 2006 state ordinance model. Requested changes would affect setbacks for non-participating land owners and historic properties, preclude siting turbines within the National Register historic district or any designated natural or wildlife area, such as the Dunning Mountain Forest Natural Heritage Area, and would require a company to conduct studies for any proposed project, including potential impacts on environmental protection (including an endangered bat species located on Evitts Mountain), scenic views, noise, shadow flickers, and property values.
In addition to the potential harm to the character of the area, local residents are alarmed about environmental impacts, including the anticipated “flattening” of the steep slope of the ridge and related impact on the watershed. (More details on potential impacts below.)
How You Can Help
Take Action: Please email the Bedford Township Supervisors at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask the supervisors to adopt the new wind ordinance.
Residents in Dutch Corner hired an attorney to write an updated and amended wind ordinance, which was presented to the Bedford Township Solicitor and Supervisors on Dec. 10, 2020. If the township adopts this ordinance, it will ensure that economic, environmental and historic resources receive adequate protection from the impacts of any proposed wind turbine development.
The township supervisors are currently reviewing the updated ordinance, but it has been several months since the amended ordinance was presented and no feedback has been offered.
The opponents of the project simply request that Bedford Township adopt the new ordinance as an update that will help the township better manage potential wind energy development in the future and ask that the supervisors balance the wishes of individual property owners with their duty to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the community, as well as the protection of environmental and historic resources..
The company believes the ridge could support between 10 and 15 turbines, but [John] Hafner [CPV project director] said that is a preliminary projection.
Michael Resca, vice president of development with CPV, said the turbines could be 400 to 450 feet tall. “There’s an ability to go even higher, that’s where the industry is going,” he said.
— “Potential wind turbine project discussed in East St. Clair Township,” by Will Deshong, BedfordGazette.com, 8/17/2019
Potential Impacts of the Wind Turbine Project
Each of the large turbines will stand on a flat turbine pad and will be linked to the adjacent turbines by an underground cable. An overhead transmission line will most likely carry the energy produced by the turbines down the Dutch Corner side of Evitts Mountain to a substation at the base of the mountain. In order to build the project, CPV will have to remove trees and dynamite the top of Evitts Mountain, blasting and bulldozing to flatten it for the turbine pads.
In addition to the turbine pads, an access road will be required to allow passage of the huge cranes and heavy equipment needed to haul cement, transmission cables, and the turbines into place. Construction of this road will require additional deforestation, blasting and re-grading of the mountain. A three-foot trench will also be blasted for the underground cable to connect the turbines. The blasted rock will be pulverized for fill used to create level turbine pads and roads. The vast majority of this construction will most likely take place on the side of the mountain within the Dutch Corner Historic Agricultural District, having a devastating effect on the character of the mountain that is an integral part of this significant historic resource.
In addition to reshaping the mountainside and altering its appearance and character, the blasting necessary to build the wind project on Evitt’s Mountain will fracture the bedrock through which groundwater flows. If groundwater flow is changed such that springs and wells are deprived of groundwater, residents living in the valley below the proposed wind project will be unable to effectively operate the farms that characterize this rural historic district.
Deforestation on the mountain will also change the way rain contacts the slope and is absorbed, further impact the water system and potentially lead to contamination or elimination of essential water resources critical to the economic viability and quality of life in the Dutch Corner Historic Agricultural District and surrounding communities.
The character of the Dutch Corner Historic Agricultural District will not only be impacted by the physical changes to Evitt’s Mountain and the related aesthetic and water quality issues, but the operation of the wind turbines will also generate noise that will alter the character of the historic district. Noise studies conducted in the Dutch Corner area show that there is currently little man-made noise that is not seasonal (farming) or transient (vehicles on local roads). When the wind turbines commence operation, turbine noise will increase sound levels on nearby properties. As a result, the soundscape will be permanently altered such that the natural sounds of a rural community will be replaced with the increased sound of wind turbine operations.
Bedford County’s rural character is best preserved by smart development in areas designated for development. Development on forested steep slopes, such as CPV’s proposed wind turbine project, contradicts the planning framework for Bedford County, specifically set forth in the Comprehensive Plans of both Bedford Township and Bedford County.
National Register Listing
The approximately 18,000-acre Dutch Corner Historic Agricultural District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015 in recognition of the area’s outstanding historic character and setting. It is the largest district of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania. The landscape’s rolling hills are dotted with farmhouses, barns, machine sheds, silos, milk houses, summer kitchens, smoke houses, and other outbuildings that provide a strong sense of the region’s agricultural heritage. (Note: National Register listing does not directly convey any preservation protections but would require federal agencies or projects using federal funds to take into account the impact of actions on listed or eligible properties or districts.)
The Dutch Corner Rural Historic District includes over 30 historic farmsteads, as well as the former site of Oppenheimer, a late-nineteenth/early twentieth century mining community that has generally disappeared from the landscape. This district includes cultivated land, pastures, and wood lots that supported the area’s historic industries, including farming. A historic church, school, and multiple cemeteries are also present in the district. Evitt’s Mountain is a dominant natural feature that clearly forms the physical, visual, and legal edge of the Dutch Corner Rural Historic district. Historic deed records indicate that the steep slopes up to the top of the ridge were an integral part of the local farms. The terrain limited the cultivation of crops to the lower elevations, but iron ore, water, and timber resources were an essential part of the livelihood of the farms. Farmers sold timber and/or used it to construct buildings and fences, or as fuel. The forest lands also provided shelter for roaming livestock and was a habitat for game that supplemented the diets of local residents. Dutch Corner is a clearly identifiable rural area that is significant as a good, intact example of a rural agricultural community in Bedford County that reflects common trends in agricultural production and related industries over time. This district retains its historic character and conveys an excellent sense of feeling. — National Register Nomination for Dutch Corner Rural Historic District