SOS, Collins and Ortt not convinced turbines won’t affect future of Niagara Falls base

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2016 at 5:43 pm
Provided photo from Save Ontario Shores: Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, talks to Save Ontario Shores supporters outside the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Monday.

Provided photo from Save Ontario Shores: Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, talks to Save Ontario Shores supporters outside the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Monday.

NIAGARA FALLS – Save Ontario Shores, a citizens’ group opposed to the Lighthouse Wind turbine project in Somerset and Yates, were joined by Congressman Chris Collins and State Sen. Robert Ortt on Monday, again stating their concerns that the 600-foot-high turbines could jeopardize future missions at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Just last week, the operations group commander at the base told The Buffalo News the turbines wouldn’t have an impact on the base, which is changing to higher-flying tanker plans next October.

The eight KC-135 tanker planes will fly at altitudes above 3,000 feet, higher than the training missions for C-130 transport planes. Col. Joseph D. Janik told The Buffalo News the turbines are a non-issue because of the planes’ height and travel routes.

Save Ontario Shores said the base’s future missions aren’t fully known and the turbines could be a detriment to the base operations.

SOS also said Apex Clean Energy, developer of the proposed project in Yates and Somerset, has hired a Washington-based lobbying firm, Cassidy and Associates,  to work behind the scenes and promote the Lighthouse Wind project.

“They are well-connected inside the Beltway, and they have been relentless in their efforts to ignore the majority of residents in the towns of Somerset and Yates who have repeatedly gone on record in opposition to the installation of these mammoth wind turbines in our towns,” said Pam Atwater, SOS president.

She said Cassidy and Associates has been hired by the state of New Jersey to help protect several military installations in New Jersey that make up Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, as well as the Earle Naval Weapons Station, the 177th Fight Winger and a Coast Guard Training Center.

“The same firm that is promoting wind turbines here, turbines that could jeopardize the future of NFARS, has been hired by a neighboring state to land a re-fueling mission while keeping an eye on the chief competitors and threats to New Jersey’s military installations,” Atwater said.

Apex has hired Cassidy and Associates to lobby for its industrial wind turbine project in Western New York, which could put NFARS at risk the next time Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission decides which military installations will close, she said.

“We’ve been fortunate here, twice,” Atwater said.  “The BRAC Commission has voted to save NFARS, but what happens in the next round?”

Collins and Ortt joined SOS outside the base on Monday, speaking against the turbines near the lakeshore in Yates and Somerset.

Apex officials said the local community doesn’t need to worry about the turbines having a negative impact on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

“We are perplexed about why this topic continues to be raised, especially after Lighthouse Wind has received a letter directly from the DoD Siting Clearinghouse stating the project is ‘unlikely to impact military testing or training operations in the area,’” said Cat Strumlauf, a public affairs associate for Apex.

“More recently, a top official at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS), when asked whether the new KC-135 mission makes the wind turbines a nonissue for the base replied, ‘With the new mission, yes.’”

“Niagara County residents can be confident there’s no current or projected mission impact on Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which is more than 20 miles from the Lighthouse Wind project area. At this point, it is clear that the concerns being raised about potential impact to the base are unfounded and entirely speculative,” Strumlauf said. “We are surprised at the audacity being shown by these few civilian anti-wind activists in questioning the DoD Siting Clearinghouse as well as the expertise and knowledge of local military experts and advisors about their own base. We trust that our professional national security experts are doing their duty and acting in the best interest of our nation and our armed forces.”

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