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Wind turbines still up in air; Calumet supervisors extend permit ban by 70 days

The Calumet County Board rejected some members’ proposal for a one-year moratorium on wind turbines at about 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Four hours later, however, after largely fruitless debate over recommended changes to its ordinance regulating wind energy, the board passed a 70-day ban on permits for wind turbines.

Developers are negotiating the location of two large wind farms, composed of 400-foot turbines, in the county, which is one of the state’s most promising sites for wind energy.

Advocates for the year-long moratorium said it would give the county an opportunity to observe the effects of similar projects in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties, which are under construction.

Dozens of Calumet County residents have expressed worry about how noise and vibration from the huge turbines will affect adjoining property owners.

“We need to take our time, because if we don’t do it right we’re not going to be able to change it in the future,” Supv. Alice Connors said. “This is a very, very important decision, and I think we need this moratorium to learn from our neighbors.”

Others suggested a long moratorium would just drag out what has already been a long process. Opponents have demanded tougher restrictions since the county adopted the existing ordinance in mid-2006.

They persuaded the county to impose a 120-day moratorium in September. It expires this week.

In the interim, County Board Chairman Merlin Gentz convened a special committee to study wind turbines effects on human health.

The committee’s recommendations went before the board Tuesday in the form of 15 different resolutions.

By 2:30 p.m., the board had acted on only one, prompting even supervisors who had opposed the long moratorium to agree to a 70-day extension of the current ban. It expires March 26.

Ron Dietrich, a member of the committee that proposed the changes, which include increasing the distance between turbines and houses, schools, hospitals and other structures from 1,000 feet to 1,800, said he was disappointed the longer moratorium didn’t pass, but glad the board seems willing to seriously consider the committee’s recommendations.

“I think it would be better to look at what comes out of Johnsburg,” Dietrich said.

Johnsburg in Fond du Lac County is part of the 88-turbine Blue Sky/Green Field project We Energies is developing.

The first turbines should be functional next month. “Seventy days won’t do that.”

The board was to resume deliberations today.

By Susan Squires
Staff Writer

Appleton Post-Crescent

16 January 2008