May 21, 2008

Livingston to finish wind farm hearings today

PONTIAC – Iberdrola Renewables continued on Tuesday to say its proposed wind farm project offered the “right time, right team and right place” to benefit Livingston County, but residents still seem divided on the issue.

Closing comments were offered at Pontiac Township High School on the sixth day of the public hearings for the proposed Streator-Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm. The hearing will continue at 7 p.m. today if anyone who previously testified wants to offer closing comments.

Wind farm officials said their project, which would entail the construction of 155 turbines scattered over 15,000 acres between Odell and Emington, would benefit the community. It would be the first phase of a wind farm with 450 turbines on 46,000 acres spread across Livingston and LaSalle counties.

“I know of no other way to produce cleaner energy then wind turbines,” said Claire Manning, environmental attorney for Iberdrola. “This really is the way of the future for supplementing the use of energy.

“In many ways, you can think of this as very clean money,” she said.

Iberdrola officials said a wind farm would not have a direct impact on agriculture or the environment, provide $57 million to various taxing bodies in the area and make an impression in the field of renewable energy.

Members of the public who provided testimony at previous hearings also were able to give their closing arguments to the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals. Only a few attended the meeting, but reactions still seemed to be mixed.

Those opposed to the development said it is the board’s responsibility to think of every resident of Livingston County, including those who could be hurt by a wind farm.

Livingston County Board member Carolyn Gerwin said the wind farm could hinder future development because developers might be limited to where they can establish facilities.

Others said they did not want to see neighbors move away because they were disturbed by the turbines.

“You might gain 25 employees, but how many people will leave,” Melinda Cusack of Blackstone said. “I am aware that the landowners have the right to do what they want with their land, but my rights are being taken away. My family’s future happiness is literally in your hands.”

Residents in favor spoke of the project’s tax revenue.

“This is not just for the landowner, but it is for every resident of Livingston County because we will all reap the benefits … and we need this,” Jane Drury of Pontiac said. “I have been here for every meeting, and nothing has changed my mind.”

The next hearing will be Iberdrola’s final rebuttal will be at 7 pm. June 19 at the high school. The ZBA will make a recommendation to the County Board sometime this summer.

By Tony Sapochetti

Bloomington Pantagraph

20 May 2008

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