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Civilian and military leaders address wind farm concerns to state Senators

CORPUS CHRISTI – Some of Texas’ most powerful lawmakers today met at City Hall to hear how they can help solve the gridlock over how – or whether – wind turbine projects affect naval flight training programs in the Coastal Bend.

Members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Military Installations, including Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, listened as naval leaders, city officials and wind turbine representatives shared their perspectives.

How leaders address concerns over wind turbine development has far-reaching ramifications for the future of flight training programs at NAS-Corpus Christi and NAS-Kingsville at a time when Base Realignment and Closures are on everyone’s lips.

“We need to be prepared to make sure that our air bases here in Texas are considered and given every advantage so that they can stay open,” Hinojosa says.

Captain Christopher Misner, the Commanding Officer at NAS-Kingsville, says wind turbines can interfere with radar. He says the Navy wants to study the effects of these turbines before they’re built.

“What I’m afraid that will happen is that one day, all of the installations in south Texas will just, if we wake up five years from now, will be surrounded by 500 foot towers, spinning at hundreds of miles an hour, negatively impacting the radar,” he says.

Last year, the City of Corpus Christi annexed 10,000 acres south of town in an attempt to stop a wind turbine project at Chapman Ranch.

The cities of Corpus Christi and Kingsville both have memorandums of understanding with wind farm developers that lay ground rules for addressing concerns.

The memorandums do not open the door for future development.

Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez says the city would not have annexed that land otherwise.

“We would not, as a city, done anything as frankly politically unpopular, but people get it here, of annexing an additional 10,000 acres to try to protect that area that was in our flight mission,” she says.

A representative from Apex Clean Energy told leaders regulatory changes can have huge impacts on wind turbine farms. He said changes to local regulations could mean the companies must seek other locations that may not meet their needs.

“Just to move a wind farm 15 miles north, you may now be out of the wind resource. You may not be near transmission. You may not have willing land owners. So, it’s not a simple process,” he says.

Misner told lawmakers that Rear Adm. Del Bull, Chief of Naval Flight Training Operations, has ordered a study of how multiple wind turbine projects might affect flight operations. He gave no timeline for the study.

Lawmakers said today’s meeting will help them frame legislation for the 2017 session in Austin.