WARRENSBURG - While U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson is talking about the potential of constructing a nuclear power plant in the region, some local officials are exploring the idea of hosting a power plant that some citizens say has less environmental drawbacks: a hydropower generation plant.
On the urging of Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty and town board members including Austin Markey, town Assessor Greg Klingler has been researching parcels of land along the Schroon River that might be suitable for situating a hydropower plant and dam.
Klingler confirmed this week he has been examining sites along the river that have good water flow and could potentially host a hydropower plant.
"We have all that water running by that years ago powered many mills in town," he said.
Klingler said he and other town officials have envisioned that with the assistance of grant money and low-interest loans, the town could develop a plant and sell the power produced back to the power grid to help offset property taxes.
"It's free and God-given energy, we just have to harness it," Klingler said.
Warrensburg already hosts one hydropower plant. It was built in 1988 on the Schroon River by an upstate New York enterprise.
Since then, the plant has been steadily generating 2.9 megawatt-hours of energy, or enough for nearly 3,000 households, according to federal records.
Located near the site of the former site of Warrensburg Board & Paper Co., the hydropower dam has backed up millions of gallons of water to form Queen Village Pond.
Officials of the state Department of Environmental Conservation backed development of the plant and dam - although it radically changed the local landscape - because the newly-created pond offered good fish and wildlife habitat, they said.
Klingler said hydropower plants might be able to be developed along the Schroon without altering the landscape. He said he envisioned a cascade-type installation, where several low-level dams in series could be built to tap into the river's power.
Klingler said any installation would have to be discussed and reviewed for years by various panels and agencies before any construction could occur.
"This could be a just pipe dream or perhaps a reality someday," he said.
Nuclear power envisioned for region
Development of hydropower is considered by many to be more environmentally-friendly an idea than nuclear energy, which raises the spectre of the Chernobyl meltdown in the Ukraine. This 1986 disaster killed 50 people, forced an evacuation of 350,000, and is expected to cause a total of 4,000 premature deaths over time, and spewed nuclear fallout across Europe.
But with the increasing demands for energy, and the public fearing the consequences of global warming due to excess carbon dioxide production, nuclear energy's lack of carbon emissions has prompted talk of developing more nuclear power plants.
Gibson has said exploring construction of a nuclear power plant in the 20th Congressional district is among his top priorities - a development he has said would reap substantial economic benefits for the region. With that in mind, he is in the process of recruiting a task force, primarily legislators, to study energy solutions including nuclear power.
Gibson has credited Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec, a former candidate for the seat now held by Gibson, for the idea of pursuing the option of nuclear energy. Stec was once a nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy.
Stec confirmed he was an advocate of nuclear energy.
"There are no emissions, and a nuclear reactor can go decades without re-fueling," he said, countering the concerns about the persistence of toxic nuclear waste.
He added the fears over meltdowns or radioactive emissions were not based in reality, as nuclear energy technology has advanced substantially over the past several decades.
"The Navy has operated hundreds of nuclear reactors over four decades without a serious incident," he said, noting France and Great Britain are continuing to develop new nuclear power plants. "It can be done safely."
Stec said he also supported hydropower, wind and other environmentally-friendly methods of producing power.
"When it comes to energy, we should develop all the technologies," he said, noting that hydropower development might take less time than designing, permitting and gaining approval of a nuclear plant.
"If we have the opportunity to harness hydropower in the Adirondacks, it certainly makes a lot of sense to me."