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Riviera residents form group opposing wind farm project

A non-profit group is being formed in opposition to a proposed wind farm project in Riviera, but one member said the group is hoping to garner support for its cause in areas all across South Texas.

John Saenz, a member of South Texans for Sensible Wind Farm Siting, said the group was formed in response to a wind farm being proposed in the Riviera area by San Antonio-based Texas Wind Group LP. He said there are about 15 members currently, with the group hoping to add more as members work to spread the group’s message. That is the reason for settling on the regional portion of the group’s name as “South Texans,” Saenz said.

“As a small landowner, I do not believe these projects belong in populated areas benefitting but a few, at the expense of small landowners,” he said in an April 1 email.

While speaking to Kleberg County commissioners last month, Saenz said he owned about five acres of land in the Riviera area, and planned to retire in the small town. However, he said, the idea of a wind farm making its way into the area has caused him to worry that the installation of about 75 wind turbines, as the developer has proposed, will affect not only the quality of life and property values of Riviera residents, but also operations at U.S. Navy facilities in Corpus Christi and Kingsville.

“We strongly believe that building of the projects will be detrimental to our local economy because they jeopardize the missions of (Naval Air Station-Kingsville) and Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi,” Saenz said.

Dru Steubing, managing member with Texas Wind Group, said last month that the developer has worked closely with NAS-Kingsville since 2009 to mitigate any impact to training operations at the base. That includes altering the design and layout of the wind turbines in order to limit any interference with radar equipment used to keep track of training jets during exercises.

However, Kingsville Mayor Sam Fugate said the idea of limiting any impact on the base’s equipment is not good enough, adding it’s puzzling to have to mitigate a problem the developers would be causing.

“I don’t want to hear the word, ‘mitigate’ – I want to hear the word ‘solution,’” Fugate said. “Until they come up with a solution that our ground radar is not affected by (wind turbines) in any way, then I’m opposed to them.”

The mayor, who said the South Texans for Sensible Wind Farm Siting group has reached out to him, said his opposition is not against wind farms in general, but rather their ability to interfere with military training operations. The concern is all the more prevalent thanks to the possibility of another round of base realignment and closures, otherwise known as BRAC, in the future.

The City of Kingsville passed a resolution last month in opposition of wind farm developments that could negatively impact operations at NAS-Kingsville.

“If they affect the Navy, then we’re opposed to them,” Fugate said.

A public meeting on the Riviera wind farm project will be held Wednesday at the Sea Wind Resort Recreational Center in Riviera, beginning at 7 p.m.