It’s bad enough when poachers or irresponsible hunters trespass on a farmer’s property. But when a wind farm company is alleged to have done the trespassing, that’s worse.
A Compton farmer, Gale Barnickel, told the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals recently about his beef with contractors building Goldwind USA’s 71-turbine Shady Oaks wind farm in eastern Lee County.
Barnickel told board members that wind farm construction crews had repeatedly trespassed on his family’s property. Transit of construction equipment over farmland caused crop damage, he said.
Barnickel posted signs that prohibited trespassing at various places along his property line. Workers who entered the property should have been aware of what they were doing.
After all, what part of “no trespassing” would they not understand?
According to a Goldwind spokesman, the whole situation was a mistake. The contractor apologized to Barnickel, and the contractor took “concrete steps” to clearly mark the farmer’s land so no further trespassing would occur.
But, as the saying goes, it’s like closing the barn door after the horse ran away.
Goldwind and its contractor should have had a better plan in place to avoid trespassing on a non-participating farmer’s land.
Barnickel filed two reports with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department about the trespassing incidents. He decided not to file any more, as they apparently weren’t doing any good, and he wanted to avoid wasting taxpayers’ money.
The whole situation should be a wake-up call to county governments near and far – especially in Whiteside and Ogle counties, where new wind farms are contemplated.
Are there strong enough trespassing laws in place to keep wind farm construction crews in line?
Are enforcement provisions ready so that if construction crews trespass, authorities can mount a swift and effective response?
Are the fines large enough to discourage construction crews from ever entering private property unless they are absolutely certain it belongs to a participating landowner?
Farmer Barnickel stated: “It’s nerve-wracking being pushed around. Why should I have to put up with that?”
Neither should anyone else.
Goldwind spokesman Colin Mahoney said his company was committed to minimizing the impact of wind farm construction.
We think area counties should strengthen their ordinances so landowners are better protected when wind farm companies stray from such commitments.
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