LOWVILLE – The Lewis County Legislature is opposing a state Senate bill that would prohibit wind farm construction within 40 miles of an airbase or airfield.
While the county “is and always has been in complete support of Fort Drum and supports all actions taken to protect its continued status as one of the preeminent active military installations in the country,” it is also one of the state’s leading counties for wind power, and the proposed law “would negatively affect wind development in the County,” states a resolution adopted by a 10-0 vote Tuesday.
Prior to the vote, Legislator Craig R. Brennan, R-Deer River, said he was concerned about taking any actions that could have a negative impact on the local Army base, noting the ongoing concern about wind turbine impact on both military and weather radar systems.
“Fort Drum is extremely important to us,” he said.
Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, said discussions he’s had with staff members of state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, lead him to believe the proposed legislation won’t pass the Assembly even if it makes it through the Senate, as it “probably went too far” to address radar concerns.
Wind projects must already meet stringent requirements through the Federal Aviation Agency and other agencies prior to construction, so a “blanket restriction” like this should not be needed, county attorney Joan E. McNichol said.
“I think the mechanisms are already in place to stringently look at every project,” she said.
The resolution calls on the Senate to defeat the bill and allow Article 10 and the FAA’s Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse to continue evaluating environmental and community impacts of wind projects. It also vows that county officials “will continue to critically analyze each and every wind development project in Lewis County to ensure that any negative impacts raised are remedied to the satisfaction of Fort Drum before a project is implemented in the County.”
A few wind projects are being proposed in the county surrounding the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm. Preliminary discussions on payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements have been taking place on both the Number Three and Deer River projects.
Legislators also voted to spend up to $10,000 on a mediator, if needed, to help the village of Lowville and Kraft Heinz resolve any outstanding issues. Mr. Tabolt said the two sides weren’t interested when he made an informal offer at a village board meeting a few weeks ago, but he wanted to adopt a formal proposal in case it was needed down the road.
The issues are “infinitely resolvable” but need to be done so in a timely manner due to the plant’s significant economic impact on the community, County Manager Elizabeth Swearingin said. “This is a negotiation that has to take place,” she said.
At the request of Ms. McNichol, lawmakers also set aside $40,000 in excess revenues from the county tax auction in a capital clean-up fund.
More than $4,000 from the fund, created in 2015 with $40,000 from excess auction funds from that year, was used to help entice the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study the former Lewis County Dairy property in the town of New Bremen, the attorney said. The hope is that the federal agency will eventually clean up the former kosher dairy plant, as it is doing with the Crown Cleaners property in Herrings, she said.
The additional county funds should help to assess and clean up more tax foreclosure parcels in the future, Ms. McNichol said.
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