WATERTOWN – The Jefferson County Board of Legislators passed a resolution Tuesday recognizing the potentially detrimental impact wind turbines could have on Fort Drum’s radar system.
The resolution states that, because the post is vital to national defense as well as Jefferson County’s largest economic driver, the board cannot support alternative energy projects that could damage these strengths, and it would support any state or federal efforts to block wind turbines from being constructed within a certain radius of military installations.
Only one of 13 county legislators present at the meeting voted against the resolution.
Legislator Jeremiah J. Maxon, R-District 10, argued that the county should not support giving the federal or state government additional power to decide where economic developers cannot pursue projects.
“This is an exercise in police power,” Mr. Maxon said. “We’re stripping people of those rights, and those rights have monetary value.”
Legislator Patrick R. Jareo, R-District Nine, voted for the resolution but advised the board to be mindful.
“We need to be careful with this kind of resolution,” he said. “We don’t want the federal government telling people what to do.”
On Monday night, the Watertown City Council unanimously approved a similar resolution.
The growing opposition to local wind projects follows the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization’s statement in early September that it is opposing the development of eight industrial wind turbine projects near Fort Drum because of the radar interference they would cause. 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.
The FDRLO said the projects in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties represent about 400 new turbines in the post’s airspace. The proposed turbines are planned to stand about 600 feet, about 200 feet taller than existing turbines at Maple Ridge and Wolfe Island.
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, is exploring legislation that would prohibit wind projects from being built near the post. At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Christopher C. Collins introduced a bill last year that would prohibit federal tax relief for wind energy projects located within 40 miles of an active military air base.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, expressed concerns about the turbines in a letter sent to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley.