People who saw balloons floating in the air near the City of Hudson Wednesday got a glimpse of how visible St. Lawrence Cement’s controversial cement plant would be if it is built. Wednesday’s test updated a similar balloon test in April. In August, the company announced plant changes it said would significantly reduce the plant’s visibility. St. Lawrence wants to close its Catskill plant and build one with three times its capacity in the Town of Greenport. The balloon test was required by the Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources and is designed to simulate the height and mass of the $353m plant.
To get federal permits, the plant must be consistent with New York’s Coastal Zone Management Plan, which includes provisions for aesthetics. The division must make a determination by April 22, spokesman Peter Constantakes said. A Department of Environmental Conservation judge will also consider visual impact as the DEC considers permitting the plant. The company plans to submit plans for its re-designed plant to the DEC in the first quarter of 2005, company spokesman Dan Odesclachi said. Odesclachi said the company was "proud" the balloon test proved its redesigned plant was largely invisible. Opponents, including the environmental group Scenic Hudson and citizens group Friends of Hudson, disagreed. Friends of Hudson Executive Director Sam Pratt called the difference between the two balloon tests "marginal".