Al Hass has been crop farming a long time in the Johnsburg area, and he knows what his soil needs to be like to grow a good crop.
What it cannot be is the rocky mess he said was left behind in areas following the installation of several wind turbines on his property just south of Malone.
“I’m not talking about just my farm – I’m talking everywhere,” Hass said during a recent visit to his farm.
The condition of the soil is just one of several complaints Hass has about the turbines. His parents, Leonard and Leota, signed contracts to have the turbines erected before Al purchased the family farm a couple years ago. Asked what he would say to wind energy representatives now if he had it to do all over again, Hass said, “You see the door? Get out and don’t come back. I don’t ever want to see you again.”
Andy Hesselbach, project manager for the Blue Sky Green Field wind farm which will be operated by We Energies, said the company and its subcontractors are working to provide long-term solutions for Hass and any area landowner who has any concern about the 88 wind turbines which have been erected in the towns of Marshfield and Calumet.
Didn’t follow his suggestions
Hass said he understood that trenching would need to be done to lay electric cables across farm fields as part of the wind farm construction. He knew the rocky ground found in the four to five foot deep trenches would be dragged to the surface in the process, but Hass said the contractor should have had dump trucks standing by to take that ground away. The good topsoil should have been set aside and then replaced when the cables were buried, he added.
Hass said he even pointed out another area on his 700-plus acres from which contractors could have pulled all the good topsoil they needed, but that was not done. “I was even willing to do it for them,” he said. “I didn’t even want the money for it.”
We Energies’ Hesselbach said Monday morning that cropland restoration is still ongoing at a lot of farms, including the Hass farm. He said they are open to using the topsoil from the area Hass pointed out.
Hass said he is no longer just concerned about the topsoil issue but also whether or not his crops’ roots will be able to penetrate the rocky soil left underneath it. “It can never be restored the way it was,” he said. The trenching area in question on his farm is about 20 feet wide and stretches for perhaps up to a mile.
Still plan to make it right
Hesselbach said, “Are there areas where topsoil wasn’t used as good as it can be? Yes.” But he and project engineer Richard O’Conor of We Energies also showed fields behind the company’s permanent building on Johnsburg’s north side which have been reclaimed and are now ready for another farmer to start planting.
Hesselbach added, “We’ll be making payments to any landowner who can’t plant crop,” adding that the payments will reflect the value of the crop lost and will be “very fair.” But he said he also remains convinced that the soil reclamation work, once completed, will be very satisfactory. “We’ll get there and we will do a good job,” he said.
Hass said he normally aims to start planting around April 15, but a very wet spring delayed that into May-otherwise he said he might have been even more frustrated with delays in getting his soil situation rectified.
Hass said the noises made by the turbines are another concern. He said when he toured a much smaller wind farm near Montfort, there was no noise. He said he was surprised when the Johnsburg area turbines started spinning that there was noise – noise which he said his parents can hear in their bedroom and which he said is upsetting neighbors. “That land can be fixed,” Hass said. “That noise will be here forever.”
By Mark Sherry
TC News Editor
18 May 2008
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