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Jenne wind bill makes progress amid Lewis County opposition

ALBANY – Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne’s bill to block subsidies for wind projects built near Fort Drum passed the Assembly Energy Committee 11-4 late last week.

The legislation was introduced by Ms. Jenne, D-Theresa, last year because of reports that wind turbines create dark spots on Fort Drum’s radar network, potentially jeopardizing radar systems. These dark spots are already created by wind farms in existence in Lewis County, including Maple Ridge.

The bill would put a temporary ban on subsidies for wind projects within 10 miles of the Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield and within 15 miles of the Montague Doppler Weather Radar KTYY in Lewis County. Ms. Jenne noted there are about 10 new wind farms that have been proposed or are under construction around Fort Drum.

“Soldiers at Fort Drum and from all over the country depend on the training capabilities here,” Ms. Jenne said. “It’s critical to our country’s national defense to ensure these training opportunities continue with as little hindrance as possible. We can and will continue to lead the state in generating renewable energy in the north country while supporting our military’s needs. This legislation does just that.”

With the Assembly Energy Committee’s passage of the bill, it will now be brought to the Assembly floor for consideration.

Local governments in Jefferson County, including the county’s Board of Legislators and Watertown City Council, have passed their own resolutions supporting legislative action to block wind subsidies for projects within a certain proximity to Fort Drum.

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, has also expressed concerns about the effect turbines could have on Fort Drum.

On the other hand, the Lewis County Board of Legislators has opposed legislation that blocks subsidies for wind projects. Board Chairman Lawrence L. Dolhof sent a letter to Assembly Energy Committee Chairman Michael Cusick in response to the committee’s passage of the legislation.

Mr. Dolhof said blocking wind subsidies would have several detrimental impacts on the county, including a significant loss of tax revenue that would be generated by future projects, lessening the value of local land and stopping progress in green energy development.

“Foregoing the development of this, or any natural resource, should not be taken lightly, especially for a rural community such as Lewis County,” Mr. Dolhof said in the letter. “To dismiss wind development entirely as an unfortunate sacrifice for the growth of Fort Drum is at the very least, disrespectful of our community, and at most, is an illegal taking of vital airspace without just compensation.”