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Altus chamber wants military to have say in wind farm locations

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

ALTUS, OK (KSWO) - The Altus Chamber of Commerce wants state and local leaders to have more influence over construction of wind farms near military installations.

They said the turbines can affect radar and disrupt training routes, so they're urging lawmakers to give the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission the ability to approve or deny applications for new wind farms, in certain cases.

The chamber said they want lawmakers to find the best solution to protect military assets without working against the wind industry.

The process  was first discussed by the Chamber's Board of Directors last week, who agreed to reach out to state lawmakers.  
The board members also approved, and a letter was sent to Senator Mike Schulz and Representative Charles Ortega, who both represent Altus, to start a discussion on possible solutions there might be to protect our military installations.

The President and CEO of the Altus Chamber of Commerce, Brian Bush, said input from the military community regarding wind farms is especially vital in Oklahoma since so many of our installations, such as Altus Air Force Base, are heavily involved in training.

"It's very important that those low level routes that those training ranges in that radar coverage all be protected so that we don't have a degradations of our ability to accomplish those training missions," Bush said.

Current state law does not prohibit construction of wind farms outside of a certain 3-mile radius around certain airfields. Bush said, in some situations, that radius needs to be expanded. That's why they're pushing for more authority for the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, which consists of one community member from each city with a military base, as well as one state senator and representative from each of those legislative districts.

"These are civilians that are very involved and very understanding the specific mission of each of those installations is and what that does is provide opportunity for the two parties to sit down together and work out siting decisions on where the wind farms might be located that don't negatively impact the bases," Bush said.

Bush said it's vital that they protect the value of Altus Air Force Base to the local economy. It provides roughly 5,000 jobs, representing a 350-million dollar economic impact every year, not to mention their service to the defense of our country.

"So for all those reasons it's very important to us both from a patriotic standpoint of being supportive of our military and thankful for the mission they accomplish in keeping us safe and keeping us free. In addition to the economic incentive were very mindful of anything that would impact them in a negative way so that's how these really came across to us" Bush said.

We did reach out to a spokesman from the wind energy industry for a comment on the proposal, but were not able to get a response.

Altus Air Force Base released this statement which reads, in part.


"Altus Air Force Base maintains a close relationship with the Chamber of Commerce and cooperates on a variety of issues affecting the base. 
We are generally in favor of efforts that ensure mutually compatible development around the installation, while also ensuring the long term health of the Altus AFB training environment."

The next step for the Altus Chamber is to sit down with representatives next week  from affected communities to try and determine what language can be enacted to address the issue.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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