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Wind farm worries have large personal impacts

By now, my name is probably recognizable to many in town as one of the more outspoken opponents of the wind energy development in Hays. I belong to all three of the groups described by Paul Faber in his editorial: I feel the siting of this project is entirely inappropriate, I have little faith in the ability of wind power to make any meaningful contribution to renewable energy, and I am outraged by the devious and undemocratic process by which this project has been foisted on unsuspecting citizens.

I have researched extensively the dangers of industrial wind energy, helped establish our website, and organized our community presentation on May 2. But all this has not been accomplished without tremendous personal cost; financial, professional, psychological and medical, and I am sure the same can be said for many others in our group.

If you have the read the letters submitted to the Hays Daily by Jeannie Riedel, Sheryl Butler, Jacinta Faber, Tim Davis, Gary Hammersmith (below) and others, you already have some insight into the personal impact this project is having on people’s lives ““ and its construction hasn’t even begun. So this time I want to speak to the personal impact on my family and on our whole outlook on our future here in Hays.

We are here because almost 5 years ago I accepted a position at K-State University to serve as a research and extension entomologist at the Agricultural Research Center in Hays. It was a chance to end my life as an “˜academic gypsy’ ““ still floating between temporary research positions at the age of 44 ““ and purchase a house with the knowledge I had a permanent job and could finally settle down. I was also enthusiastic about the challenge of supporting sustainable agriculture in western Kansas and researching better ways for local farmers to protect their crops. Like others in our group, I was also adamant about finding a country homestead for the peace, quiet and privacy of rural living. The old Kinderknect property was the only one that fit the bill ““ I knew it would need some work, but the location was perfect. I bought it sight unseen. Now, after four years of weekend work and an additional investment of $100,000, we have a small, but fully renovated farmhouse that meets all our needs ““ in exactly the right setting for us and our animals. The dream was almost a reality.

Now, my home office now looks like the command post of a military operation ““ cluttered with maps, bulky government reports, stickies with names and phone numbers stuck to every surface.

My wife and I share research findings until all hours of the night, squabble for time on the internet, argue incessantly about opposition strategy, sleep irregular hours, and hardly seem to taste our food when we get around to eating. It was 5 days past our wedding anniversary before we realized we had BOTH forgotten it this year.

My phone rings a lot more than it used to and many new friends and acquaintances are welcomed into our house at all hours of the day and night, often without a moments notice. We used to go weeks and months without a single visitor.

Now I am the first to admit that I am a rather nervous person by nature and probably suffer higher than normal stress levels under average circumstances, mostly work-related and self-inflicted. But as the true dimensions of our impending doom became clear to me back in March, every other endeavor in our lives, personal and professional, became inconsequential by comparison.

I have had to take time off work, abandon my workout schedule, delay manuscript submissions, turn down requests for academic services I normally provide for free, find a physician, seek legal counsel, and liquidate substantial assets in preparation for an extended legal battle.

I have lost 14 pounds in the past month, my resting heart rate has increased by 20 bpm, and I have been prescribed medication to reduce hypertension. Just waking up in the morning every day brings an immediate surge of anxiety that jolts me back to reality ““ everything we have worked for is now at risk thanks to the selfish greed of a few rich families who somehow feel entitled to increase their wealth even further at the expense of their neighbors’ investments, peace of mind, and quality of life.

So now the future holds many new questions for my wife and I, questions we cannot yet answer.

1. Can we continue to effectively serve agriculture in this county when local agricultural representatives are among those farmers out to prostitute their land for this project that, in our view, constitutes a blatant assault on its agricultural integrity?
2. Can I find the motivation for that job any longer?
3. Do we want to continue living next to neighbors we can no longer trust?
4. Should we both just quit our jobs and sell up and leave for the sake of our health and our marriage?
5. We are now in week seven of the war. How much longer can we physically maintain the exorbitant amount of time and effort necessary to mount organized opposition against these forces of greed and corporate opportunism threatening our community?

Maybe our lives will go never back to what they were when we lived in peace and blissful ignorance of the cloud of evil gathering around us, but at least we have met a lot of other neighbors that we can trust. Neighbors we wish we had met five years ago. And that might be just enough reason to hang around for a while longer.

(Submitted to Hays Daily May 7, 2007 by J.P. Michaud)

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