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Lincoln County residents discuss possibility of a commercial wind farm

Residents in Southern Lincoln County met Monday night to discuss the possibility of a commercial wind farm in their area.

Several area landowners are the very people behind the project to begin with, but others in southern Lincoln County say they have some major concerns about the possibility of several hundred wind towers going up in their community.

“Our organization has some serious concerns about what it would do to our community, what it does to our environment, what it does to our lifestyle, and our rural heritage…we don’t believe that wind farms belong where there is a healthy growing community,” said Winnie Peterson, the president of WE-CARE (Wind Energy Concerns About Rural Environment) South Dakota.

However, Dakota Power Community wind says the project started because local land owners were interested.

“All but one of our board members are from Lincoln County; many of them live inside the foot print, so this is a locally driven project driven for the benefit of the land owners in southern Lincoln County,” said Brian Minish, a board member with Dakota Power Community Wind.

Opposing landowners say the wind project is only being offered to large land owners in the County.

“I own 17 acres and I’m not a big land owner, they call themselves Dakota Community wind power, however they have not included the entire community of Lincoln County, only the large land owners,” said Lincoln County resident Jennifer Fischer.

Minish says the wind project is working with land owners who have 40 or more acres to adhere to county zoning laws.

“People with smaller acreages, Lincoln County has zoning in place that you have to be so far back form the residences, anything smaller than that is probably an acreage with a residence,” said Minish.

Dakota Power Community wind says they welcome interested land owners with less than 40 acres to join the project if their property qualifies. But if land owners don’t qualify, Minish says a commercial wind farm will benefit everyone in the local community.

“Local school ship, town ships, and the county will get about $1.5 million a year that would be split among those groups,” said Minish.

But those against the wind towers say the money doesn’t take away their concerns.

“They’ve been known to leak oil, the stray voltage, most of all the noise and we do enjoy our scenic view and that’s why we live in the country,” said Fischer.

“Everyone has their opinions and some people feel l guess that they just don’t want to look at them, and I can’t make them invisible,” said Minish.

The Lincoln County Planning and Zoning director says it’s important to note that nothing has been formally proposed to the County at this point. Dakota Power is still working to gather research and data; Minish says it will be three to five years before construction would begin on the wind farm.

WE-CARE says they will work to stop the wind farm every step of the application process.

The initial permits will be decided by the County Planning and Zoning commission; if either group does not agree with their decision, they can appeal to the County Commission and potentially some higher courts after that.