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Wind farm inspector idea makes sense

While approving Mainstream’s nine wind turbines last week, Whiteside County Board members also approved the creation of a wind farm inspector position. We encourage the county to give this watchdog some bite to go along with his or her bark.

Something new and different has been added to the wind farm construction process in the Sauk Valley.

Mainstream Renewable Power plans to build an 81-turbine wind farm across parts of Lee, Bureau and Whiteside counties. Lee would have 53 turbines, Bureau 19, and Whiteside nine.

The Whiteside County Board voted last week to approve those nine turbines in the far southeastern part of the county. Two of those turbines await approval from the Deer Grove Village Board.

Whiteside board members also approved a condition that we had not heard of previously.

Board member Ruth Stanley, R-Sterling, called on the board to hire a third-party site inspector to look out for the interests of the county, Hahnaman Township, and residents who live in the vicinity.

This wind farm inspector would be paid for by Mainstream, but chosen by the county.

Stanley said she would like the inspector to serve as a watchdog who would keep an eye on the construction process from start to finish, always with the people’s interests in mind.

The idea of the wind farm inspector came from a highway commissioners conference that Stanley attended. Whoever the inspector is “would watch that they [Mainstream] aren’t taking any shortcuts. These wind companies do it all the time,” Stanley said.

Since the position is a new one, its duties are not yet clear. According to County Administrator Joel Horn, the county zoning administrator and county engineer will work together to figure everything out.

Of great interest to us is what kind of authority, if any, the inspector would have to halt work in the event he or she discovers that construction crews are not complying with the county’s expectations, as spelled out contractually and in building permits.

We hope the county grants this watchdog some “bite” to go along with his or her “bark.”

Mainstream’s spokesman, John Martin, reacted cautiously to the wind farm inspector idea, saying that “it’s coming from good intentions.”

We think the creation of a wind farm inspector is a good idea. That person also should be known to the public and accessible as well, so that people can report any irregularities that they might see.

Lee and Bureau counties have yet to approve Mainstream’s proposed wind farm. Those counties should consider following Whiteside’s lead and also require a wind farm inspector – maybe even share an inspector.

“Inspect what you expect,” the old saying goes.

Whiteside County Board members have taken that responsible approach toward the county’s first wind farm. Good for them.