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Decade-Long Opposition to the Iberdrola Horse Creek Wind Project, USA


The Horse Creek Wind Project (HCWP) is a proposed 60-72 turbine, 205 megawatt industrial wind turbine facility encompassing a 124 km² / 48 sq mi  project area in the 1000 Islands Region of Jefferson County, New York.

Since the project’s inception (2005), widespread community opposition to Iberdrola and local industrial wind development has steadily intensified, with numerous organized local opposition groups, environmental/conservation organizations, government officials, and other local/state/ national level stakeholders opposing the HWCP due to a multitude of social, environmental, economic and cultural concerns and grievances.

Proposed by Spanish multinational corporation Iberdrola via American subsidiaries Avangrid Renewables and Atlantic Wind LLC, the current project iteration (2015) of this decade-old proposal calls for turbines and supporting infrastructure (access roads and high-voltage transmission lines) to be spread over 5,600 leased hectares in the waterfront towns of Clayton, Orleans, Lyme and Brownville.

Horse Creek is overwhelmingly opposed by a majority of residents and stakeholders, with 99.8% of officially-registered public comments opposing the project (492 comments as of 8/30/2017) on the project’s Article 10 Certificate of Public Need Case File.

Project opposition contends that Iberdrola has failed to act transparently with the affected communities and has never earned acceptance or a Social License for the project. In addition, various local, state and national environmental organizations contend that the HCWP would destroy the region’s unique geology and rich biodiversity, including threatened and endangered species; generate dangerous habitat fragmentation and contribute to substantial bird and bat mortality, including that of protected species due to the project’s location in the Atlantic Flyway migratory corridor; and overlay onto the Audubon Society-listed Perch Lake Important Bird Area (IBA), an internationally- recognized bird conservation zone.

Opponents note that the project is in close proximity or adjacent to numerous New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and other protected conservation areas. Directly adjacent to the project area include the Perch Lake WMA and the globally-recognized Chaumont Barrens Preserve, which is considered by the New York DEC and the Nature Conservancy as the best remaining alvar grassland anywhere in the world.

Organized local opposition and town governments contend that Iberdrola has failed to earn a Social License for Horse Creek by ignoring community concerns, acting without transparency, intentionally understating local opposition and demonstrating hostile behavior. Iberdrola sued the Town of Clayton to challenge a temporary municipal moratorium (6/1/2016) and erect meteorological test towers, which to the present (8/30/2107) have not been erected.  Local residents and business owners have also expressed strong concerns and objections to Horse Creek, specifically: failure by the developer to open a local project office, with the closest office more than 60 km from Horse Creek and in another county; lack of transparency and visibility in the community, including failing to update the official project record since 8/22/2016; inappropriate project proximity to the Fort Drum Military Base, which could cause radar and operational interference, leading to a reduction or closure of the region’s main employer, economic driver (1.5 billion USD) the largest single-site employer in New York State; damage cultural resources, including Tribal Nations Sacred and Ceremonial Landscapes, specifically via project construction and wind turbine lighting that would damage or destroy cultural resources, including sites and landscapes ancestral to the Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk Nations;  cause irreparable harm to the 1000 Islands Regional Viewshed, the foundation of the region’s economic engine and tourism-based economy, which employs thousands of local residents and supports a sustainable, three-century old river culture, economic model and way of life; create serious environmental damage, including risks from groundwater contamination via the construction and operation of wind turbines build upon the fragile and globally-rare alvar geological landscape and associated karst topography.

The project area and immediate region is noted for having demonstrably higher incidences of pre-contact cultural resources than most areas of the state, including numerous incidences of Sacred and Ceremonial Landscapes, Ceremonial Stone Landscapes, human remains and mortuary complexes, including the Perch Lake Mounds, Clayton Cluster (six Iroquois villages) and Depauville Mortuary Complex.

Since Horse Creek was resubmitted for consideration via the Article 10 Certificate of Public Need Process in late 2015, local opposition has greatly intensified. Since that time, opposition has grown and become more formalized. Numerous public opposition meetings, news and media stories and visible signs of project opposition (websites, posters, graphics and other materials) are now commonplace throughout the project area and local community.

Official declarations against the developer’s actions have been registered by the Town Councils of both the Town of Clayton and the Town of Orleans, the two localities that encompass the majority of the project area. Likewise, these communities have and continue to update local regulations and long-term comprehensive planning that incorporate local stakeholder input regarding the compatibility of industrial wind development.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Decade-Long Opposition to the Iberdrola Horse Creek Wind Project, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:New York
Location of conflict:1000 Islands Region Towns of Clayton, Orleans, Brownville and Lyme, Jefferson County
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Other
Specific commodities:Electricity

Project Details and Actors

Project details

205 Megawatt Nameplate Capacity

60 to 72 Wind Turbines

124 km² / 48 sq mi / 12,400 hectare Project Area

5,600 leased hectares

Project area:12,400
Level of Investment:200,000,000-300,000,000 USD (Estimate based on turbine number and nameplate capacity)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:16,000 (Permanent) 50,000 (Seasonal Estimate)
Start of the conflict:06/01/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Avangrid Renewables from United States of America
Iberdrola from Spain
Atlantic Wind LLC from United States of America
Relevant government actors:New York State Public Service Commission
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:American Bird Conservancy
Audubon New York
Onondaga Audubon Society
Ontario Bays Initiative, Inc.
River Residents Against Turbines - River RATs
Thousand Islands Land Trust

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsHabitat Fragmentation, Edge Encroachment, Rare Landscape Degradation (Alvar), documented threats to threatened and priority bird and bat species (Northern Harrier, Henslow's Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, others)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Given the ongoing status of the proposed Horse Creek Wind Project, it is not yet possible to make an outcome determination in regards to environmental justice.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Siting and regulatory approval of industrial wind energy facilities in New York (25 MW or greater) is governed by an administrative law process called Article 10. This is a relatively new siting procedure that removes historical project approval authority from local towns ("Home Rule") and transfers project approval to the Public Service Commission located in Albany. The address below is a link to the Case File for the Horse Creek Wind Project.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

February 2nd, 2016: Developer re-evaluating Horse Creek Wind Farm in Clayton

June 1st, 2016: Developer sues Clayton over moratorium on wind energy projects

July 29th, 2017: Fort Drum officials talk wind turbine challenges, plans to work with developers

August 16th, 2017: Group Speaks Out Against Wind Project

July 15th, 2017: Residents and business form River RATs to oppose horse creek wind farm

August 15th, 2017: Nonprofit dedicated to bird protection opposes Horse Creek Wind Farm

October 15th, 2016: Clayton town board and developer reach settlement on moratorium

April 18th, 2017: Land trust opposes wind development in the Thousand Islands

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

August 16th, 2017 Television Report: Group Speaks Out Against Wind Project

River Residents Against Turbines - RATs Facebook Page

Meta information

Contributor:EJAtlas collaborator
Last update06/09/2017



Pre-Contact Cultural Resources

The Horse Creek Wind Project and NW Jefferson County, NY overlays one of the highest densities of pre-contact cultural resources in New York.

Community Opposition Group, River Residents Against Turbines


Prairie Smoke

Prairie Smoke is a rare plant found at the alvar limestone landscape in and around the Horse Creek Wind Project. New York State classifies the plant as imperiled (6 - 20 sites or few remaining individuals) or highly vulnerable to extirpation from New York State due to biological or human factors.