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FDRLO opposes, Stefanik questions wind turbines near Fort Drum, citing training impacts

The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization has formally opposed the development of eight industrial wind turbine projects near Fort Drum, citing concerns that they “will greatly reduce the installation’s training capability.”

“This is not an issue of renewable energy policy, but rather an issue affecting military readiness today, and Fort Drum’s relevance for future new training missions tomorrow,” the organization’s statement, released today, said. “This is an issue of national security.”

In addition to the new FDRLO statement, Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, shared concerns about turbines in a letter sent today to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley.

“I remain supportive of clean and renewable energy development in the north country and understand its potential for long term economic benefits. However, we need to adequately assess its impact on military readiness,” Ms. Stefanik wrote to the general, the former commander of Fort Drum. “Military readiness today, relevance tomorrow, and the safety of our service members is paramount when evaluating and approving the location of these projects.”

She also expressed concern the Army and Department of Defense are not evaluating the cumulative impact of turbines at Fort Drum, noting the wide range of missions happening there and at other installations nationwide.

The new statements on the potential developments comes as military officials had discussed multiple impacts from turbines already in place near the installation’s Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, which houses Army and Air Force helicopters and drones and is used for training by units across the military.

Post officials have told the Times the turbines can affect military and weather radar, creating a potential “black hole” of visibility and producing false weather data.

Airfield staff said the turbines show up similar to moving aircraft, creating a potential overload of information that would prompt the system to drop legitimate aircraft from its view.

In addition, the post is the home for an Air Force weather squadron that maintains weather radar in Montague. Air Force officials said the turbines contaminate their data.

However, Fort Drum officials told the Times that rather than directly opposing all wind projects, they wanted to work with developers to reduce potential conflicts.

The FDRLO said the eight projects in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties represent about 400 new turbines in the post’s airspace, “surrounding the post on virtually all sides, and most significantly, right within Fort Drum’s main flight paths.” They noted the proposed turbines are planned to stand at about 600 feet, about 200 feet taller than existing turbines at Maple Ridge and Wolfe Island.

Other lawmakers have also spoke out against the developments.

Last week, Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, said she was exploring legislation to bar wind projects from state subsidies if they interfere with Fort Drum operations.

“With approximately 10 new wind farms proposed or under construction around Fort Drum, their impact on training operations that translates to troop readiness and future mission readiness cannot be ignored,” she told the Times. “This important national defense asset cannot be taken for granted.”

The FDRLO’s opposition to the turbines was presented with data about the post’s value to the north country economy.

Fort Drum’s direct economic impact was measured by the post at $1.18 billion in 2016, while the FDRLO has argued the impact is closer to $1.63 billion when factoring in indirect growth.

Also factoring into the discussion is the Fort Drum Joint Land Use Study, administered by the Development Authority of the North Country. Among the research points is energy development, which includes wind turbines.