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Wind farm plan shocks board

MORRISON – Some Whiteside County Board members are upset that they hadn’t been informed about the possibility of wind energy development in the county.

A couple of weeks ago, a county official told a board committee about a company’s plans for wind turbines north of the village of Deer Grove and extending west of state Route 40.

Deer Grove, 11 miles south of Rock Falls, has a population of about 50.

Apparently, some board members didn’t know of the proposed project until they read about it in the newspaper.

At the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday, member Bill Milby, whose district includes Deer Grove, said a number of people have contacted him expressing their concerns about the proposed wind farm.

Milby said he wished he would learn of such developments from the county, rather than the newspaper.

Stuart Richter, the county’s planning and zoning administrator, emphasized that the county hadn’t received an application from the company, Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Energy. He said he expected to receive the application in September.

“It’s not a big secret,” he said, adding that he hadn’t seen the layout of the proposed wind farm.

Board member Jim Duffy asked whether the wind farm would be rushed through the board at the last minute.

“I certainly hope not,” Richter responded. “This is all new to us, but we won’t be reinventing the wheel.”

Board member Jon Hinton suggested the county put a hold on all permits for a while, adding that he hadn’t known about the proposed wind farm until recently.

Members asked what would happen when companies abandoned their turbines.

Richter responded that the county would enter into separate agreements for such issues. He said some counties require companies to post money to be put in escrow to cover the costs of the eventual decommissioning of their turbines.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Sterling resident Amanda Norris, head of the local Sauk Valley Tea Party, said she and her husband recently bought land near Prophetstown and planned it to use for recreational purposes.

“This leaves us very concerned about protecting our property rights,” she said. “Having a turbine only a few hundred feet from our property would make it worthless to us. How does Whiteside County intend to protect the rights of property owners such as me and my husband?”

Whiteside County doesn’t have any wind turbines, but Lee and Bureau counties have had them for years. Those counties have been embroiled in bitter debates because many residents find the turbines noisy and unsightly, and say they cause health issues.

Mainstream is planning 190 turbines for the local project, which would include Bureau, Lee and Whiteside counties. Most of the turbines would be in Lee County, but company representatives wouldn’t say how many would be in each county.

The representatives confirmed that they planned to apply for permits in the three counties in the coming months.