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Draft of Fort Drum Joint Land Use Study offers ideas for managing wind turbine development

The entrance to Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y. is shown in this undated photo.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By GORDON BLOCK | The Watertown Daily Times (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 6, 2017

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — A highly anticipated study about managing conflicts between Fort Drum and the surrounding civilian community offered several ideas for approaching the issue of wind turbines.

Among the recommendations in the 118-page report was for military officials to identify areas where wind turbines could pose a threat, to create a Regional Wind Energy Policy Steering Group to raise awareness of potential projects, to become an “Interested Party” on the state Siting Board and to coordinate with wind developers to create agreements supporting both new projects and military missions.

“They’re suggestions, but they are things we want to get more formalized,” said Hartley Bonisteel-Schweitzer, a community planner for the Development Authority of the North Country. “We’re trying to direct the conversation toward tangible things that can be helpful for the community and Fort Drum.”

The report, which covers 25 areas of compatibility, was formally released on Monday by DANC, which facilitated the study paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment.

The release of the report comes after months of meetings for its committees and organizations in the community and multiple open house events. The study’s steering committee and technical working group include post officials, local, county and state public officials and nonprofit representatives.

“This has to be a collaborative effort to be successful,” Ms. Bonisteel-Schweitzer said. “It has to have Fort Drum, local communities and relevant state agencies at the table and wanting to be participating. That’s the balance we’re trying to have here.”

The wind turbine issue has come to the forefront as military officials expressed concern on how turbines can affect their aviation and weather radar systems.

Other areas covered by the compatibility study include housing, the environment, economic development, safety, aviation and noise.

Among the other short-term policy recommendations from the draft report included establishing a Fort Drum Compatibility Committee, having Fort Drum work with the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust to improve the post’s buffer program, having local planning staff join the Fort Drum Real Property Planning Board and having Fort Drum release information about its operations to the community. They also suggested the post provide the public maps on topics like low-level flight paths and potential encroachment issues.

Consulting firm Matrix Design Group had done similar studies at military communities in other states, Ms. Bonisteel-Schweitzer said, but it became apparent some ideas needed an adjustment to make sense in the north country.

“Fort Drum is unique; we are different from other installations,” she said. “Our recommendations are going to be different.”

In addition to helping facilitate the study, DANC is working to make its collection of maps accessible to the public at one place online.

“Having that information when you’re making decisions is so critical, on both sides of the fence,” Ms. Bonisteel-Schweitzer said .

Open house events to discuss the new draft study will be held on Nov. 13 at Lowville Academy and Nov. 14 at Watertown High School.

More information about commenting on the study, which is open through Nov. 27, can be found at http://wdt.me/danc-study.

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©2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)
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