NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – Those in opposition to a proposed wind farm in Niagara and Orleans Counties are taking a new tack in their efforts to keep it from being built.
The issue they are now raising, is the track of military aircraft in the area utilizing the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
It’s been more than a year since a Virginia company submitted plans to erect what might be the tallest wind turbines yet in New York State.
Apex Clean Energy wants to erect 70 turbines, each as much as 600 feet tall, in an area along the Lake Ontario Shoreline, about 12 miles long and four miles wide in the towns of Somerset and Yates.
Having previously raises their voices at meetings (with the usual concerns of the potential impact on the environment, birds, noise, and their property values) opponents – along with three former base commanders – are now claiming the windmills could pose an infringement on the flight paths of aircraft using the base.
The base, Niagara County’s largest employer, faces another review perhaps as early as next year by the Base Realignment and Closing Commission, or BRAC.
“I do believe these three former command officers have a point, that if BRAC has the slightest reason to shutter this base they will do so,” said Dennis Vacco, an attorney representing the town of Somerset, which is joined in its opposition to the turbines by a citizens coalition called Save Ontario Shores.
The three former commanders noted in a letter to Governor Cuomo and other top state officials that aircraft utilizing the base sometime fly through the area where the turbines are proposed at heights of only 300 feet above ground level.
“Based on our knowledge of the current and potential future missions at Niagara falls Air Reserve Station, the construction of these turbines could indeed pose a serious encroachment threat into the military operations area,” the three said.
“That’s one of the things that make this base so attractive. There’s no encroachment of that military operating area,” said Vacco, while acknowledging the area for the proposed windfarm is 25 to 35 miles from the base.
The fear by some is, that if an encroachment is created, the base is doomed.
The Niagara County Legislature has also gone on record in opposition to the wind energy project.
A base spokesperson did not returned our calls to see if they have a position.
Last April, another developer of a wind farm in Maryland abandoned their plan, when lawmakers there, concerned about protecting the work of the naval air station in their region, voiced objections.
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