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Fort Drum officials talk wind turbine challenges, plans to work with developers

FORT DRUM — Military officials are working quickly in the face of changing winds in Lewis County, coming in the form of new turbine developments near its Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.

On one hand, officials told the Times the turbines affect military and weather radar, creating a potential “black hole” of visibility and producing false weather data that cannot currently be fully mitigated.

On the other hand, post officials, stressing their ties to the community, are wary of cutting into potential economic activity outside of the post, and said they wanted to work with developers to reduce potential conflicts.

“We want to say, ‘Here’s the risk you’re presenting to our operation,’” said Col. Bryan J. Laske, Fort Drum’s garrison commander.

Post officials outlined the potential complications of additional turbines during a tour of the airfield’s 160-foot-tall tower for the Times this week, explaining in the most detail yet what an expansion of wind power could mean for their future. The Times set up a tour following a meeting and tour there for Lewis County legislators on Monday.

“It was a positive, progressive meeting,” said Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan. “We came out of there with a better understanding of where they were coming from.”

The Lewis County projects are of heightened importance to the military compared to other locations due to their proximity to the post’s flight areas and the higher altitude of the turbines in relation to the airfield.

The county Legislature in June passed a resolution opposing a bill proposed by the state Senate that would prohibit wind energy facility development within 40 miles of an airbase or airfield. The resolution was adopted in a 10-0 vote.

Post officials, Mr. Tabolt said, wanted to learn more about the projects and asked Lewis County officials to provide them with updates as they move forward in their development because “they have to prepare.”

He declined to provide additional details.

“I don’t want to try to give answers on anything that involves national security,” Mr. Tabolt said. “I don’t want to get in trouble with Fort Drum.”

For military operations, an increase in turbines could create challenges in viewing traffic and a planned expansion of unmanned aircraft.

Read the complete article here.

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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.