Representatives of Marine Corps Installations East told Pamlico County officials Wednesday night that the mission of the Marines remains the defense of the country, although they are willing to work with companies developing alternative energy, such as wind power.
Pamlico County commissioners heard a presentation last year by the Wind Capital Group, which wants to build wind turbines on farm and timberland east of N.C. 306 near Grantsboro and north of Bayboro.
The commissioners turned the matter over to the planning board to prepare an ordinance on the issue as to its effects on the county, including the military’s airspace presence in the county.
Mike Evers, the Marine Corps Installations East deputy director of Governmental and External Relations, gave background remarks on the mission of the Marine Corps in the region, including its special use airspaces.
He noted that through federal law, military commands cannot object to wind energy projects. He said the military has procedures to mitigate the situations.
“Our mission hasn’t changed,” he said. “It is still to protect the United States.”
He added that structures such as tall wind turbines, with spinning blades, present problems in both radar interference and potential collisions for aircraft flying as low as 200 feet above the ground.
Heights for proposed wind turbines are as much as 500 feet.
Plummer showed maps that detailed the amount of Marine Corps airspace, which has dropped drastically since 1957 as the area has grown, including the addition of civilian airports.
Dave Plummer, the Marine Corps Installations East Regional Airspace Coordinator, gave a presentation on Cherry Point military aircraft radar and flight patterns. The needed airspace around the base for training includes lands in Pamlico County. The training includes manned and unmanned aircraft.
He also said that the tall wind turbines could create not just a radar problem, but a collision pattern problem.
He said that to force the jets to higher altitudes for their training would create a loss of effectiveness in the exercises.
Pamlico Commissioner Chairman Ann Holton addressed the audience before the presentation on the board’s responsibilities to keep the tax rate low by reducing county expenses and growing the local economy. She called wind energy a chance to increase the tax base and add jobs through clean economic development.
She added that because of the proximity to Cherry Point, the military’s input was a factor.
After the presentation, there were no questions allowed by the audience of about 50 people, and neither the commissioners nor planning board members had questions.
Because development activity has been slowed by the economy, the county planning board has not had any recent meetings.
Planning Board Chairman John Buck said afterwards that his group is gathering information — including that from the Wednesday night meeting — in its work toward an ordinance.
The planning board meets the last Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the commissioners’ room at the county courthouse.