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Turbines are fine, but why on my prairie?  

Still, I weep for the industrial erosion of this wondrous region, even as land owners rejoice over this new use of their land.

I people-watch in restaurants. I watch people put Tabasco sauce on their eggs. Salt and pepper on their fruit.

Ketchup on a New York strip.

As they say, there’s no accounting for taste.

I had the same thought this week when I saw the 262-foot-high wind turbines, with 125-foot blades, that had been erected on the beautiful, rolling Flint Hills prairie. (Like ketchup on a New York strip steak.)

Can’t say that I didn’t see it coming.

For months, environmentalists and nearby property owners fought the $190 million Butler County Elk River Windfarm, which has spread 100 wind turbines over 8,000 acres in the Flint Hills.

In February, ranchers and wildlife enthusiasts who oppose the turbines lost their federal court bid to short-circuit the development.

When I wrote about the possibility of turbines earlier this year, about a dozen people wrote telling me to mind my own beeswax.

The turbines would generate enough electricity to power 42,000 homes. Because of our country’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil, they said, we need to explore alternative energy sources.

The company that partially owns the turbines, PPM Energy of Portland, Ore., has practiced good stewardship of the land, restoring county roads and reseeding areas around the turbines with native grasses.

The area also has the infrastructure already in place – 40 miles of underground wires connected to a power grid.

And most important, land owners living there said, the land is theirs. I have no business telling them what to do with their property. They should be able to make money from the land if they so choose.

All good points.

Still, I weep for the industrial erosion of this wondrous region, even as land owners rejoice over this new use of their land.

But some things are more important than profit, ownership or convenience. That’s why I appreciated Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ efforts earlier this year to "preserve Kansas’ unique treasure of the Tallgrass Prairie while enabling full and aggressive development of the state’s vast wind energy resources in appropriate areas."

The emphasis on the word "appropriate" is mine. I think we could have had a wind farm that generated clean energy and protected the delicate ecosystem that exists in the Elk River wind farm development.

How? By placing them in the more sparsely populated western half of the state. And I bet that I wouldn’t have been the only Kansan encouraging state government to invest in the necessary infrastructure.

I just didn’t want these huge turbines on the most spectacular swath of natural beauty in the state. In the last remaining areas of native tallgrass prairie. In the way of my view of the sun-soaked Kansas horizon.

The wind blows in many places in the state, but only one place has the largest stand of native tallgrass on rolling terrain, under a crystal blue dome.

This area of the state is easily God’s masterpiece.

And yet, people want to pour ketchup all over this New York strip steak.

Oh, well. You know what they say: There’s no accounting for taste.

Reach Mark McCormick at 268-6549 or mmccormick@wichitaeagle.com.

Mark McCormick

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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