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Eastern Shore County Shuns Pax River Study
Lexington Park, MD - 10/6/2012
By Dick Myers
Somerset County on the Eastern Shore is the lone holdout for a “joint land use study” aimed at determining potential adverse effects on the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. The county’s board of county commissioners in May voted against participating in the study after the Maryland General Assembly approved a bill that would make the Navy a party to any request before the Maryland Public Service Commission that was within a 47-mile radius of the base. It was reported at the time that the Somerset County Commissioners felt they were “back-doored” by the Navy with the bill.
The Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland (TCCSM) will conduct the Department of Defense funded study. Apart from Somerset, nine counties in Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore and the Northern Neck of Virginia will participate. According to TCCSM Executive Director Wayne Clark, Somerset County will be included in the study, although if the county participated their staff’s input could be included.
Several wind turbine projects are being proposed for Somerset County. The county sees them as an economic development prospect in an area with high unemployment and a declining economy dependent on seafood production. The major employer in the county is a state correctional facility.
The issue was discussed Tuesday at the joint meeting at the Frank Knox Training Center between base officials and the St. Mary’s County Commissioners. At the meeting Chris Jarboe, a base representative, told the attendees about a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study just completed, although not yet released, that shows potential adverse impacts to Pax River’s mission from wind turbines. Jarboe said three have been proposed in Somerset County. He said the study noted some potential mitigation from turbines, although those fixes could be expensive.
Later in the day Jarboe met with the Somerset County Commissioners in Princess Anne, the county seat. The following is a story from the Somerset Herald about the meeting which is presented in its entirety with the newspaper’s permission:
Somerset County likely could see wind turbines staked across its rural landscape — just not as soon as one energy company intends.
An independent MIT study has determined that proposed county wind turbines, depending on their location and height, could adversely affect Navy radar systems located across the Chesapeake Bay from Crisfield. The good news is that the study recommends optional measures that could accommodate both Naval Air Station Patuxent River test range operations and wind energy projects proposed for thousands of acres of farmland in the Westover region of Somerset.
Researching the options would require further study and extend a decision on the fate of proposed turbines, said Christopher Jarboe, a Naval air station official who unveiled findings and options at a Tuesday meeting of the Somerset County Commissioners.
“If wind turbines are in a direct line of sight (of a radar system), there would be a significant impact to the (radar) system; that corroborates what the Navy said,” Jarboe told commissioners. “MIT felt there were mitigation options. All mitigation options are possible, but they need to be studied.”
The meeting with County Commissioners drew a crowd that included Delegate Charles Otto, R-38A-Somerset, and Senator Jim Mathias, D-38-Worcester, who reminded Navy officials that while military testing and national security are paramount, so is the future of the region and economic benefits that renewable energy would bring the county.
“We were here before Patuxent River and we want to use our property without the curtailment of government,” Otto said.
Mathias said he hoped the Navy and wind companies strike a balance suitable for both sides.
“We’re going to do everything we can to bring about a brighter future here,” he said. “We must protect national defense and freedom, and we have to pay our bills. If we can find a balance, I’m all for it.”
Jarboe told commissioners that steps already are in motion to seek funding to study options by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Adam Cohen, vice president at Great Bay Wind Energy Center, said 10,000 acres of land near Westover already has been set aside from 200 landowners for wind turbines.
He applauded proposed options, but noted that most of them put the burden of compromise on wind producers.
“We hope to work out a solution with Patuxent,” he said.
Source: Written by Deborah Gates, Staff Writer | Somerset Herald | Oct 2, 2012 | www.delmarvanow.com
A contingent from the lower Eastern Shore, including Somerset County, will travel by boat on October 12 for a meeting at Pax River. The meeting is being coordinated by the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance and the base. It is hoped the base tour will convince the Eastern Shore contingent of the impact of the base on the state’s economy.
St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R: 4th) pointed out at Tuesday’s meeting with Maryland Department of Transportation officials, that a recent study showed the base to have a greater economic impact on the state than the Port of Baltimore. Morgan has been in the forefront in expressing concerns about wind turbines, while he was president of the alliance and now as a county commissioner.
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