Government authorities have more to consider when it comes to proposed wind projects in the north country than just how they’ll look from the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Aviation personnel stationed at Fort Drum conduct routine training exercises in the skies above a region that includes Clayton and Henderson. Wind turbines sited in this region may adversely affect the radar used to track military aircraft. Existing turbines at the Maple Ridge farm in Lewis County compelled Fort Drum personnel to make some adjustments to its radar-track capabilities.
The Watertown Daily Times submitted questions last week to officials at Fort Drum to determine what concerns they had about the proposed Horse Creek wind project. If approved, the project would be built in Clayton and is expected to incorporate the towns of Orleans, Lyme and Brownville.
Julie A. Halpin, the post’s director of public affairs, wrote the responses to our questions. When asked aboutFort Drum’s stance on the proposed wind project, she replied: “We remain very interested in the development and location of large-scale wind turbines and wind turbine farms in the vicinity of Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield instrument patterns, near Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield in general, the Fort Drum Radar Approach Control airspace area and the Military Operations Areas surrounding the restricted areas, which serve a high density of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. We look forward to the results of the upcoming Development Authority of the North Country-led Joint Land Use Study as a key tool in identifying ways for the coexistence of our training and future wind turbine development in the north country.”
She further wrote that wind turbines “have the ability to negatively affect instrument approaches by encroaching on the traffic patterns aircraft are vectored via use of air traffic radar for extended final approach courses. There are also impacts to our radar for Air Traffic Control services; minimum vectoring altitudes may have to be raised over wind turbine locations. In some locations, a higher MVA makes it more difficult to conduct an approach procedure.”
When the military expanded Fort Drum in the mid-1980s to accommodate the 10th Mountain Division, the federal, state, county and municipal governments spent significant amounts of money to ensure the post’s operations were safeguarded from encroachment. These efforts ensured that residential and commercial developments were kept at appropriate distances from the post’s borders.
These wise investments have made Fort Drum one of the most versatile military posts in the country for preparing U.S. soldiers for potential combat. The expanded Fort Drum has served a vital role in preserving the nation’s security, particularly in confronting threats from Islamic terrorists around the world.
Fort Drum also has benefited Northern New York by becoming the largest single-site employer in the state. The post adds more than $1 billion to the north country economy each year.
Representatives of the state Public Service Commission and local municipal governments have their work cut out for them in contemplating whether to permit the Horse Creek wind project to proceed. The impact that wind turbines could have on aviation operations at Fort Drum is a big factor that cannot be ignored. Just as protecting the post’s land boundaries from encroachment is important, so too is preserving the integrity, operating flexibility and safety of its airspace.
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