Commander: Base supports wind energy development

Few questions were asked by regional residents following a presentation by Cannon Air Force Base commander Col. Buck Elton Wednesday morning, during which he it made clear base officials are highly supportive of wind energy development.

Curry and Roosevelt County land owners were invited to participate in the meeting, which addressed regional wind technology development and how it affects Cannon's special operations forces.

Alisa Boswell: CMI staff

Cannon commander Col. Buck Elton takes questions Wednesday after a presentation to regional residents on how the special operations base and wind development can impact each other. Elton told residents that base officials are very supportive of wind energy.

"There have been a lot of accusations and misconceptions about Cannon Air Force Base trying to stop wind development," Elton told his audience Wednesday morning during a PowerPoint presentation on Federal Aviation Administration regulations and how they play into Cannon's operations and wind infrastructure development.

"The deputy secretary of defense is the one person who can say there are concerns with a project and effectively stop a project," Elton said. "We (CAFB personnel) have the ability to assess the impact both on the FAA side and the DOD side, but that's an informal process. Our major command does a study on projects then makes recommendations."

Elton told those present that the DOD recently declared a wind infrastructure development in Broadview as "no hazard to air navigation" on Jan. 24 as an example that many factors are taken into account with when the DOD does land studies to determine impact.

After a brief explanation of Cannon's mission, Elton walked audience members through a presentation of effects and possibilities with Cannon and wind development.

Elton said Cannon can perform informal studies and make suggestions to the DOD. Elton said Cannon has no control or decision-making authority when it comes to wind projects being rejected due to interfering with military missions/training.

He said federal law requires that any infrastructure more than 190 feet tall be approved by the FAA.

"It does not mean we are denying a project; it determines there will be an impact (on mission training)," Elton said.

Elton said base officials understand that what might work for them may not be what works for individual land owners, which is why studies and compromise are necessary.

Elton highlighted the four categories in which an infrastructure project, such as a windfarm, could fall under in regards to its impact on the military base's training:

  • Minor/no impact
  • Impact/no objection
  • Major impact/mitigation required
  • Critical impact/no mitigation possible

Elton said projects likely to fall under critical impact are infrastructure more than 200 feet high and within 12 miles of the base's training range.

"When we go through this process and determine impact and turn in technical data, that does not mean the FAA automatically goes in," Elton said of informal studies done by military base officials. "The FAA determines whether such construction, including wind development, will have a negative impact or not."

Among the questions Elton fielded were the possibility of the 12-mile radius being extended if infrastructure increased and whether the Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) training project is still a possibility.

Elton said the 12-mile radius being increased or not would depend on the infrastructure project being built.

"What they'll probably do and what I hope they'll (DOD) do," Elton said of the LATN project, "is go through an environmental impact study and that process will take over a year."

Local Growth Management Committee member Wendell Bostwick reminded residents that base officials are open to answering questions and always willing to talk to and work with the community.

"I hope you guys understand that this is no longer an Air Force base; it's a special operations base," Bostwick said. "If there's something (positive) happening overseas, it's because of these guys."

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