The Federal Aviation Administration won’t revisit its initial ruling on the proposed Chapman Ranch wind farm, so the agency’s green light on the project remains unchanged despite requests by South Texas officials to reconsider.
In a letter mailed last week, the administration reiterated a previous determination that the proposed 86-turbine wind farm would “not have an adverse effect on the safe and efficient use of the navigable airspace” primarily used by the Navy for training pilots out of Kingsville and Corpus Christi. The agency’s letter is signed by Gary Norek, the acting director of airspace services.
“We’re glad the FAA clarified the situation,” said John Kelley, who represents part of the Chapman family supporting the project.
City and regional leaders have been hesitant to embrace the proposed Apex Clean Energy development out of concerns the wind turbines could make the area less attractive as a training space for the Navy and lead to base reductions or closures in Corpus Christi or Kingsville.
The FAA’s final verdict on the issue doesn’t alleviate that concern, Mayor Nelda Martinez said Monday.
“It doesn’t take into account the concerns our Chief of Naval Air Training has brought to our attention,” Martinez said of the decision. “That is … the cumulative effect of other wind farms that have come into play since that original permit (for the Chapman Ranch wind farm).”
Those questions are expected to be answered by the Navy, which is conducting a study to model and understand that effect. Results of that study are expected in October, and any council action will likely not precede those findings, Martinez said.
“We’re waiting on information from the Navy’s research and development arm,” she said. “(The FAA officials) do not have all the information.”
Still, Kelley doesn’t believe the additional information the Navy’s study will provide affects the Chapman Ranch project.
“That study is unrelated,” he said. “The Navy and Apex already have an agreement in place, which allows the Navy to shut down the wind farm’s operation any time it interferes with the Navy’s operations.”
That agreement was approved because technology employed by wind turbines near Travis Air Force Base in California has shown the turbines can safely operate near military-used airspace, Kelley added.
The news comes on the heels of City Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn mentioning the possibility of the council de-annexing the area – a move from two years ago that gave the city the ability to regulate or prevent the project. Vaughn’s comments came during a discussion about future capital project demands, which include at least $14 million in necessary infrastructure into the annexed Chapman Ranch area.
The FAA’s ruling on the issue will remain in effect until Feb. 12, 2018.