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Witness: Put turbines farther from prairie

ROCK FALLS – An environmentalist testified Wednesday that proposed turbines in southeastern Whiteside County should be farther away from a natural prairie.

Jerry Paulson, director of the Rockford-based Natural Land Institute, spoke on behalf of Greg Wahl, who owns 143 acres in the area of the planned wind farm. Twenty-two of the acres are what Wahl calls undisturbed prairie.

Paulson’s testimony was during the fourth session of an ongoing hearing for Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power’s proposal for nine turbines in the Deer Grove area south of Rock Falls.

Paulson said Wahl’s land has been nominated to be a part of the state Natural Areas inventory. He said it was “almost guaranteed” to be included.

The property had three endangered or threatened species, he said.

“It represents a high-quality nature community – one of the rarest in the Midwest,” Paulson said.

He recommended the turbines be sited at least a half-mile away from the Wahl prairie. Without additional studies on the effects on the wind farm, Mainstream’s request for turbine permits should be denied, he said.

Paulson was asked during cross-examination by Mainstream whether fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on neighboring farms would hurt the prairie.

Paulson said it could change the character of vegetation, but he said the farmers are good and know how to operate safely.

One of the arguments of wind farm advocates is that turbines are usually among farms, which already have noise and other effects, not unlike those of turbines.

Two weeks ago, Wahl, CEO of Wahl Clipper Corp., testified that if the county approved the wind farm, it should require ongoing post-construction studies. If the turbines disturb the rare species on Wahl’s land, they should be taken down, he said.

The turbines’ noise and shadow flicker would disturb the threatened species, he said.

The hearing was before the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission will make a recommendation to the County Board, which has the final say.

Mainstream plans 60 turbines for Lee County and 19 for Bureau County.

The Whiteside hearing continues in 2 weeks.

To attend

The Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 7 p.m. May 30 at the Rock Falls Community Building, 601 W. 10th St. Meetings last 21/2 hours.

The commission will hear testimony on Mainstream Renewable Power’s planned wind farm.

Call Whiteside County’s zoning office at 815-772-5175 for more information.