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Craven commissioners oppose wind energy near bases

VANCEBORO – A resolution opposing North Carolina coastal wind energy projects in low-level military flight training areas was unanimously adopted by Craven County Board of Commissioners Monday.

Meeting in the auditorium of Vanceboro Farm Life Elementary School as part of Craven County’s 300th anniversary, commissioners considered and slightly modified a resolution already passed by Wayne County Board of Commissioners.

Craven County Manager Jack Veit said Wayne County Board of Commissioners, Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow (ACT), county legal counsel, Coastal Carolina Regional Airport and others had brought the potential conflict of wind energy projects and flights to his attention.

Tom Braaten, airport director and former Cherry Point base commander, was in Vanceboro and responded to some questions by Commissioner Scott Dacey. That resulted in additions to the resolution to include a paragraph on potential adverse affects to Cherry Point air station by some wind projects located in the wrong place.

Dacey said the placement of some wind turbines has the potential to adversely affect the about 10,000 military personnel stationed at Cherry Point and the around 5,000 civilian personnel working on the Marine aircraft base and at the Navy Fleet Readiness Center East.

The resolution speaks particularly to a 49 turbine wind project planned for Eastern North Carolina that calls for 505 feet high turbines that could interfere with practice flights at the Dare County Bombing Range used by Seymour Johnson Air Force Base F-15E air crews. It also serves as the only F-15 Strike Eagle training route in the nation.

“Incompatible land uses in areas used by the military limits the time that training ranges are available and the types of training conducted,” the resolution maintains. That negatively impacts military readiness.

The resolution notes that since 1957, the Marine Corps has lost about 85 percent of flight training airspace in Eastern North Carolina due to encroachment.

The airspace for training route stretches five miles north and five miles south of the route’s center line and the proposed turbines happen to cover the entire area north of the center line. The area south of center is restricted now because it is within a Bird/Aircraft Strike Hazard or BASH zone which prevents flights below 3,000 feet.

The wind turbines could also pose compatibility issues because of their electromagnetic signature that can compromise radar, electronic systems and other communications for air traffic controller, fire desk operators and unmanned aircraft observers.

The resolution said that defense spending accounted for $4.06 billion in the state in 2011 with a $26 billion total annual impact on the state’s economy.

It calls for stricter permitting and public input processes for wind and power solar generation, which includes an appraisal assessment and potential effect of properties near proposed projects.

The resolution calls on the General Assembly to pass legislation blocking all encroachment to military training routes without state approval.