A moratorium on construction of industrial wind turbines continues in Calumet County.
On Jan. 15, the county board approved a 70-day moratorium, the third one enacted since the board began studying the issue in 2003.
Wind turbines have become a contentious issue between wind-energy companies and farmers in support, and other farmers and county residents in opposition.
A news release from RENEW Wisconsin states the moratorium in Calumet County and restrictive ordinances in Manitowoc County have halted four wind projects totaling 200 megawatts, enough to power 60,000 homes.
Calumet County placed the first moratorium in May 2005 to study the issue. A second moratorium was approved in September 2007 along with the formation of an ad hoc group consisting of members on both sides of the debate. That group returned to the board in December with 15 recommendations, which some said were too restrictive and others said were not restrictive enough. The county board began discussing the recommendations at the Jan. 15 meeting.
A series of ordinances were presented to the board, one asking to extend the moratorium for one year. The request was an attempt to watch what is happening with wind turbines going up just south of Calumet County as they relate to health, noise and welfare of the citizens, said Ric Van Sistine, area resident and member of the Calumet County Citizens for Responsible Energy.
A huge confrontation will come between agriculture and industries in the debate over the turbines, Mr. Van Sistine said.
“Without purchasing a single acre of land, (wind companies) can basically take control of the land. They will put up the turbines and be able to call the shots on the land in the future,” he said. “It’s almost like a corporate takeover. For a few bucks, farmers are giving up the rights to their land.”
The one-year moratorium was defeated. As debate on the ordinances continued, the board quickly realized they would not get through all of the issues before the Jan. 16 deadline set by the second moratorium, so the third was enacted. An attempt to place a 60-day moratorium was changed to 70 days and then passed 14-4 with two supervisors abstaining and one absent.
RENEW Wisconsin and Clean Wisconsin called the third moratorium a morass and said they are backing a proposal by Gov. Jim Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force to allow wind developers to seek approval from the Public Service Commission instead of local authorities.
“Personally, this is bigger than the county,” said Chester Dietzen, county board supervisor. “If the state or federal government put rules in place, it would take it away from us. The damage caused between people in the county will not be healed for a long time. …This issue is way too big for local and county boards.”
He said if the state or federal governement made the rules, they at least would be uniform.
Calumet County first began working on wind turbine regulations in 2003. Staff began by studying the issue, reviewing wind-energy information, looking at Kewaunee County Extension reports on wind farms there, and drafting a wind-energy ordinance to be part of the zoning ordinance rather than a countywide ordinance.
– December 2004: Debate of feature standards and bond requirements occur and changes are made to the draft. The proposal is sent back to corporation counsel for comments. In February 2005 the corporation counsel decides it should be countywide and drafts an ordinance including setbacks of 1,000 feet from natural areas, ecological and historical sites, park, and wildlife areas, and setbacks from sewer service planning areas.
– April 2005: The draft is sent to the Public Service Commission and back to the corporation counsel.
– May 2005: Staff request a moratorium to get an opinion from the attorney general’s office related to protecting the Niagara Escarpment and a public hearing is held. Among the public comments: Groundwater protection and a requirement for a hydrology study; a need to increase setbacks; expansion of the site plan review notification area; and need for regulations for smaller turbines. At the May board meeting the first moratorium is adopted.
– Summer 2005: The summer was spent researching and putting together a revised document.
– September 2005: The county board adopts the wind-energy ordinance. Over the next two years a number of amendments are proposed and the ordinance is amended a few times.
– January 2006: EcoEnergy and Midwest Energy begin attending public meetings.
– Summer 2006: The town of Stockbridge adopts a moratorium allowing them time to create and adopt wind-energy regulations, which are adopted later that summer.
– June 2007: The county zoning ordinance is amended to note where large and small systems can be placed in the county.
– September 2007: Tthe town of Woodville passes moratorium to study issue.
– September 2007: The county board adopts second moratorium to look at wind-energy regulations. An ad hoc committee is formed to gather information and bring recommendations to the board.
– December 2007: The town of Woodville adopts ordinance setting guidelines for turbines with setbacks of 1,000 feet from the nearest property line, 2,640 feet from the nearest residence, church, etc., and 1,000 feet from the nearest sinkholes to prevent groundwater contamination.
– December 2007: The ad hoc committee makes 15 recommendations for changes to the county’s wind-energy ordinance.
– January 2008: The Calumet County Board begins debate on 15 ad hoc recommendations. They are not able to get through the recommendations and adopt a third moratorium.
– January 2008: The town of Chilton adopts guidelines for placement of windmills. The township had taken time to study placement and safety because of the large landfill there.
By Diane Baumgart
22 January 2008
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