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Local News

Assemblywoman Jenne introduces bill to protect Fort Drum training operations from wind farm development

Dan McClelland

Assemblywoman Jenne introduces bill to protect Fort Drum training operations from wind farm development

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, has introduced legislation that would prohibit the state from granting subsidies to wind energy projects that could impact the military's training needs at Fort Drum.
“'The legislation that was finalized on Friday comes after of months of research on an issue that is critically important to Fort Drum's long-term viability." the assemblywoman said.
"It is the product of several briefings I've had at Fort Drum, with several military officials responsible for different aspects of training and operation. I've also discussed the issue with state and local officials, including representatives from the Development Authority of the North Country," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She pointed out that her position is a result of being a North Country resident who has called the area surrounding Fort Drum home her entire life.
Assemblywoman Jenne said her position also reflects the knowledge that comes from serving on the state Assembly's Energy Committee since first being elected to the state Legislature.
The legislation calls for the state to not provide subsidies for the construction or operation of wind operations within 10 miles of the Wheeler Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, 10 miles of the Doppler radar weather station on Tug Hill, 5 miles of the airspace controlled by the Fort Drum air traffic control tower and 5 miles of the area currently used for live fire drills.
State funding for wind projects would also be temporarily be prohibited in an area currently used for low-level flight training.
The triangle would run northeast from Fort Drum north along Route 11 to Route 56, southeast on Route 56 along the border of the Adirondack State Park back to Route 3 and then west back to Fort Drum.
Assemblywoman Jenne, a long-time proponent of renewable energy, said approximately 10 new wind farms have been proposed or are under construction around Fort Drum and their impact on training operations, which translates to troop readiness and future mission readiness, cannot be ignored.
"I continue to have grave concerns that the installation could be negatively impacted if neighboring wind turbine projects hamper its ability to operate efficiently and effectively," she stressed.
"We currently allocate state funding to protect Fort Drum from encroachment. This legislation offers a balanced approach to level the playing field and place our national security interests over one form of alternative energy," according to the assemblywoman.
"It provides a fix to the inconsistent practice of our state government paying property owners to limit development around Fort Drum while at the same time offering subsidies to wind energy developers to do just that," Assemblywoman Jenne added.
"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to be using state dollars to offer subsidies to wind energy developers that are working on projects that could have a negative impact on Fort Drum's training needs. We are using state funds to both build and to prevent wind farms. It's crazy," she said.
"This legislation is aimed at providing certainty for training and operations capability in the short term and gives energy developers time to step back and review potential steps that could be taken to mitigate the negative impact the wind turbines have on the weather station and on the safety of military personnel using the airspace around Fort Drum," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
"The North Country is a major producer of alternative energy in New York State, and it is already going to be a few years before improvements are made to our transmission facilities so we can effectively and efficiently move the power generated at these potential projects and other proposed energy developments throughout the state," she said.
"It is my belief that this legislation would give Fort Drum officials the time and space they need to fully determine proposed projects that are compatible with their training needs," Assemblywoman Jenne pointed out.
This legislation is attached to funding to ensure more leverage is given to the military training readiness needs of our soldiers training at the fort," she added.
"The state's Public Service Commission created a new financial incentive program that has essentially ignited a gold rush of wind development. The North Country has ideal wind patterns, so we're experiencing the brunt of the development rush. I'm very concerned about the potential impact of just under a dozen new wind farms currently in various stages of the regulatory process ringing Fort Drum and Montague," Assemblywoman Jenne stressed.
"This legislation is necessary because the process for siting wind developments at the state level doesn’t take into consideration other major competing interests that should have a higher priority over wind power generation. This legislation would place the current needs of Fort Drum on equal footing with those of wind developers," the assemblywoman said.
Fort Drum, home of the United States Army's 10th Mountain Division, is the preeminent military installation in the Northeast, providing unparalleled training opportunities and community engagement.
The installation includes troop quarters, the Wheeler­Sack Army Airfield, and the 78,000-acre training area utilized by the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and National Guard. Taking advantage of its relatively remote location, troops stationed at Fort Drum have access to a wide variety of terrains, including urban combat simulations, vehicle maneuver training, live and simulated weapons firing, aerial gunnery and bombing, and team situational training exercises in a four-season climate.
As part of the installation’s mission readiness, radar is relied upon to predict weather patterns and provide real-time conditions, direct flights and simulate air-­to­-air combat scenarios, which reflect increasingly possible missions in a global environment.
Maintaining the integrity of the installation’s radar assets is of critical importance, and this legislation would help ensure large-scale wind energy developments don’t impede training operations.
With two currently operational wind energy developments inside the installation’s radar viewshed, - a radar tower at the Wheeler ­Sack Army Airfield - and the Doppler radar tower in Montague, and eight permitted or proposed developments in progress, it is it’s clear that current siting regulations and processes at the state and federal level are not providing a sufficient buffer around the installation and radar facilities. In particular, the impact of several proposed wind projects will significantly degrade the data from the Doppler radar facility. With a 15-year sunset provision, the legislation would enable the military to count on the installation's viability to provide quality training to soldiers that can be rapidly deployed as national security needs dictate and allow time for technological leaps and investments that could allow for co-­location of energy developments around Fort Drum in the future.