The Flint Hills and Smoky Hills are the last largest pieces of contiguous Tallgrass and Mixed Prairie left in North America. They are recognized as “World Class Grasslands” and cannot be duplicated, replaced, or repaired to its original form once it is destroyed.
This point was stressed by opponents of the wind farm who attended the afternoon session with the County Commissioners. Speakers included: Virgil Huseman, Zack Grothusen, Rob Manes, Liz and Steve Donley, Ron Klataske, Wayne Bohl, Scott Bohl, Rose Bacon, Mary Jo Huseman, Joan Bohl, Melinda Boeken and Anne Grothusen. Rob Manes of the Nature Conservancy and Ron Klataske of the Audubon Society of Kansas also spoke on behalf of the groups they represent to keep turbines off undisturbed native prairie.
The opponents asked that the County Commissioners place a moratorium on the construction of the wind farm until they are fully informed of the consequences of allowing a wind farm to be built in the Smoky Hills which is pristine prairie grass.
Rose Bacon who hails from Cottonwood Falls and served on the Governor’s Wind and Prairie Task Force presented information on “industrial wind utility” developments and siting issues associated with them.
She led her presentation with the following statement to the County Commissioners:
“There are no regulations that govern the wind industry”¦no federal, no state, no EPA, no one or no entity to turn to in an appeal; no safeguards or protections for you or your people as an unzoned county. Any safeguards for your county and your people are solely up to you.”
The proposed Smoky Hills Wind Farm has planned for a 250MW complex; the average output will be closer to 75MW.
Developers will make $400,000 to $500,000 per turbine per year with all the benefits considered. A few local landowners will benefit from a small fraction of this and will receive an “average” of $3,000 per turbine per year or less than 1% of the developers take. Neighbors and communities take most of the risks and have the fewest benefits. Land prices depreciate around wind farms.
Benefits to communities are usually greatly exaggerated by wind developers.
There are a handful of short-term construction jobs. Skilled workers are imported.
After construction there are few maintenance jobs. In Butler County none were local residents as they lived in Wichita. Trucks were tagged out of state, so there are no tax benefits to the county. In Spearville, there are two local employees for their wind farm. Maintenance workers live elsewhere and go to Spearville when contacted.
Wind companies often promise income to the county in the way of “gifts” since the county can’t collect taxes. It’s a form of bribery and there are NO guarantees the money will be paid.
Wind farms are tax exempt forever in Kansas. Kansas ratepayers keep up the transmission line costs. Tax shifts are to individual tax payers.
Developers and investors in the companies make the vast bulk of the money. These are out of state and foreign companies. In this case, an Italian firm is the owner. They are not going to live or shop in Ellsworth. These complexes are not financially viable without numerous Federal tax subsidies, tax credits, and rapid depreciation schedules. The cost of the wind farm falls right back on the taxpayers.
Several years ago two other wind companies looked and talked with local people. They assessed the legacy of the grass lands and said they would not disturb the Smoky Hills and one went to Spearville instead.
The current wind farm people have held no public meetings and their information with landowners is privileged. They pit one landowner against the other in their negotiations to make deals. Even the landowners who have signed leases with the wind farm don’t know where the towers will be located or if any will be placed on their property.
We taxpayers are going to get stuck with the bill for all of this with higher energy rates and property taxes. There has been no money set aside in the bank for repairing roads and bridges when decommissioning takes place. Nothing lasts forever and when the turbines start to fall apart and become useless, as they will, where will they go? Will they just remain where they are? Over whose roads will the remains be transported? Who will pay for road and bridge costs? The answer from the wind company is: we have a private arrangement with each landowner. They do not have any arrangement with the County Commissioners to pay for the destruction of roads and bridges that might be created at the time of decommissioning.
The wind farm folks are here because city residents won’t allow turbines in their back yards, farmers are pressed for money and are easy prey for slick dealers.
This shouldn’t be allowed to happen. As my friend Jesse said: People are charged with respecting certain noise levels, even if the noise is being made on their land”¦can’t get too rowdy or too noisy or it’s a public disturbance. I see visual disturbances as falling under the same set of rules. I wonder how tolerant some of these folks would be if a strip joint moved in next door and kept people up all hours of the night?
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