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Report outlines Stearns wind farms’ environmental impact

SAUK CENTRE – A new report takes a closer look at potential environmental impacts of two proposed wind farms in western Stearns County, from bird deaths to flickering shadows.

The Black Oak and Getty wind farms would be adjacent to each other about 2 miles southwest of Sauk Centre. The farms would have a combined 27-52 wind turbines, each roughly 400 feet tall.

The project covers about 14,600 acres of mostly agricultural land in Ashley, Raymond, Sauk Centre and Getty townships. Its backers hope to start construction sometime this year and have the turbines operating by December.

The report addresses the wind farms’ potential impacts on humans and the environment, including visual impact, noise, property values and shadow flicker. The wind farms’ effects are compared to building a biomass plant and to not building at all.

The combined 82-megawatt wind farm would be within the Mississippi flyway used by migratory birds and waterfowl. Several species listed as threatened or of special concern, including bald eagles, trumpeter swans and American white pelicans, were recorded during an avian study.

The report states that the impact to most wildlife species is expected to be minimal. Bird and bat deaths would occur, the report states, but the impact could be reduced by placing turbines away from habitat areas.

The report is available at Bryant Library, 430 Main St. S, Sauk Centre; Sauk Centre City Hall, 320 Oak St. S; or at the Stearns County Auditor’s Office, 705 Courthouse Square, St. Cloud. It’s also available online by searching the e-dockets at www.puc.state.mn.us by the year 11 and the number 471.

The state Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a hearing on whether the project is needed and in the public’s interest at 6 p.m. May 29 at Sauk Centre City Hall.