Assemblywoman Jenne introduces amended version of bill to protect Fort Drum from wind farm development
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, recently introduced an amended version of her legislation (A9053-A) to prohibit the state from granting subsidies to wind energy projects that could impact the military’s training needs at Fort Drum and is encouraged about the prospects of it passing.
The assemblywoman said she introduced an amended version of her initial legislation this week after consultation with state senators representing areas in the North Country that will would be impacted by the legislation.Jenne’s district, called the River District, includes all St. Lawrence County towns located along the Seaway.
"I've made a few tweaks to tighten this bill up so it would have the least restrictive impact possible. Even with these minor modifications, the bill will still support the mission at Fort Drum. Any further changes would really impact mission readiness at the base," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She said the amended legislation will allow the state to continue to move toward its green energy goals and still protect the low-level flight training air space around Fort Drum, creating the opportunity for future activity and growth at the base.
"Now that we have been able to make these tweaks, I hope we can move this legislation forward. I look forward to my colleagues in the Senate introducing similar legislation" Assemblywoman Jenne noted.
She said Fort Drum is a premier training installation for the United States military and offers a training area that is unique in the state as well as anywhere east of the Mississippi River.
"Fort Drum is the only instrumented joint air-to-ground range north of Florida in the eastern United States able to execute live bomb training. It is one of only two Army installations capable of cold weather, winter training in the country. The North Country weather and unique terrain makes Fort Drum a peerless training installation," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
The moving blades of wind turbines already operating in Lewis County within proximity of Fort Drum have created interference with air traffic control and Doppler weather radar, according to the assemblywoman.
The existing turbines have reportedly created a large blind spot within the 60-mile viewshed of Fort Drum's air traffic control radar and corrupted the data of a significant portion of the Doppler radar viewshed.
Assemblywoman Jenne said the construction of any additional wind projects in close proximity to Fort Drum would significantly degrade radar data that is used to assist pilots training in the area.
She said those concerns led her to draft legislation eliminating any state incentives for the development of wind turbines within the area that could interfere with Fort Drum's radar systems while maintaining the incentives for the development of wind-generated energy outside the Fort Drum radar and training area.
The assemblywoman said the remedy is necessary due to the unique nature of the terrain around Fort Drum and the extensive interference with the radars' view sheds.
Those impacts on radar have increased as a result of the height, number and density of the wind turbine towers, many of which can be seen with the naked eye from the air traffic tower at Fort Drum's Wheeler Sack Army Airfield.
The area impacted by the legislation would include:
• within 10 miles of the Wheeler-Sack Army airfield;
• within 15 miles of the Montague Doppler Weather Radar KTYY in the town of Lowville in Lewis County, excluding the area within a 15-mile radius east of the line traveling due north and due south from the intersection of County Road 27 and County Road 28 in the town of Lowville;
• within five miles of the Wheeler-Sack Army airfield restricted airspace in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties;
• within five miles of the boundary of the Wheeler-Sack Army airfield class D controlled airspace with the exception of that controlled airspace in Lewis County; and
• within the enclosed area beginning at the intersection of Route 11 and Route 26, north on Route 11 to Route 56, south on Route 56 to the border of the Adirondack Park and then west along the border of the state park back to a point due east of the Route 11 and Route 26 intersection and then west to the intersection of those two highways.
Assemblywoman Jenne said the area covered by the temporary ban on state subsidies was drawn after several briefings with a variety of military officials responsible for different aspects of training and operation and state and local officials, including representatives from the Development Authority of the North Country.
The legislation is co-sponsored by several of Assemblywoman Jenne's colleagues on the state Assembly's Energy Committee.
Assemblywoman Jenne, a long-time proponent of renewable energy, said approximately 10 new wind farms have been proposed or are under construction around Fort Drum and their impact on training operations, which translates to troop readiness, cannot be ignored.
"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to use state dollars to offer subsidies to wind energy developers that are working on projects that could have a negative impact on Fort Drum's training needs. We are using state funds to both build and prevent wind farms," she reiterated.
The legislation is aimed at providing certainty for training and operations capability in the short term and gives energy developers time to step back and review steps that could be taken to mitigate the negative impact the wind turbines have on the weather station and on the safety of military personnel using the airspace around Fort Drum, Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She said the temporary ban on subsidies would also give Fort Drum officials the time and space they need to fully determine which proposed projects are compatible with their training needs.
“The legislation is attached to funding to ensure more leverage is given to the military training readiness needs of our soldiers training at the installation," she added.
The legislation includes a 15-year sunset provision that would enable the military to count on the installation's viability and provide quality training to soldiers that can be rapidly deployed as needed.
It also allows time for technological leaps and advancements that could allow for the co-location of energy developments around Fort Drum in the future.