The Riley County Planning Board is to examine regulations Monday evening that may lead to a dramatic change in the future viewscapes and property values of southeastern Riley County. A California developer has found a landowner willing to transform a prominent part of the last Flint Hills native prairie landscape in Riley County from “agricultural” in nature and zoning to “industrial.” The planning board is being asked to help pave the way.
Some, but not all, members recognize the seriousness of the potential changes for Riley County residents in that area and the community. Manhattan benefits greatly from the scenic and intrinsic values of Flint Hills ranching landscapes and the from the stewardship of ranch landowners who struggle to preserve a way of life in the Flint Hills in Riley County and the two adjacent counties to the south and southeast.
The proposed site in Riley County is in absolute violation of the principles and guidelines developed by the Kansas Renewable Energy Work Group committee on siting. The company is totally ignoring the guidelines that other industry representatives helped to articulate. It is disheartening to think that Riley County would be vulnerable to developers who ignore industry standards. Strict siting “guidelines” should become a part of the “standards” for Riley County.
Although industrial wind-power development projects are promoted as “green energy,” the green that developers are seeking is in the form of subsidizes from taxpayers. That is currently the only thing that is fueling proposals in the Flint Hills. Without tax credits and situations in which owners of multimillion dollar industrial turbine complexes would pay no property taxes in Kansas to the state or local government entities, venture capitalists from throughout the world would not be threatening the last remaining prairie landscapes in North America.
The projects involve massive turbines that will tower 350 to 450 feet above the landscape, excavations 30 feet deep into the hillsides and industrial roads to each turbine capable of handing 40- to 60-ton loads.
If this project advances, the biggest losers in Riley County will be residential homeowners and landowners in the Deep Creek vicinity who may experience a decline in their quality of life and property values as the surrounding landscape changes from pastoral to industrial. Folks need to become informed and get involved.
Ron Klataske, Member
Ron Klataske, Tallgrass Ranchers