The company planning to build a 20,000-acre wind farm in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties said the firm would address some concerns of hunters and farmers over land use, an official said last week.
Iberdrola, an Oregon-based renewable energy company, leases 20,000 acres in the Four-Mile Desert Road area. For a time, hunters leased some of the land and hunted there. That practice was stopped completely at one point but it has since been relaxed.
Some farmers complained that without hunting, the deer population was getting out of control and causing damage. Hunters told the county commission they wanted the ability to hunt on the land back.
The issue prompted the Perquimans commission to table Iberdrola’s request for an extension for at least a few weeks.
From an economic standpoint, the Iberdrola investment would make it the largest county taxplayer by far and generate about $350,000 a year in local property taxes. The company is also looking to build a 6,000 to 8,000 square foot maintenance facility on the Perquimans side of the line. There will also be about 20 people employed to maintain the project.
“That comes without any burden on schools, water, sewer or police protection,” said Craig Poff, an Iberdrola developer. “We will address these concerns and I think you will see Perquimans County will see the benefits of this project. We take the concerns seriously.”
The dispute came to light when Iberdrola went before the Perquimans County Commission to get a two-year extension for the project. It was seeking the same extension from Pasquotank.
Iberdrola wants the flexibility to scale back the size of the project if that’s what the market demands. It’s also seeking a local tax break that would reduce the local taxes on each turbine from about $17,000 to $5,000.
Pasquotank County Commissioners approved the request but the Perquimans board tabled it because of the concerns raised on Dec. 1. The matter is scheduled to come back before the Perquimans board on Monday.
John Beardsley, an officer with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, said the dispute was largely sparked by people who were illegally hunting on property they did not have permission to be on.
Beardsley said Poff was concerned that people going to their test windmill site were in danger of having people shooting at them.
“There is a safety concern,” Beardsley said.
Beardsley said hunting clubs can change $500 to $700 a year for each member of the club.
Beardsley said concerns about deer overpopulation can be addressed.
“I’m not a biologist by no means,” Beardsley said. “If you want a good answer talk to our biologist who covers this region, but from what I see the deer population in North Carolina is doing extremely well.”
The population is so large, the state is encouraging hunters to kill female deer, or does. Beardsley said most hunters want to bag only the bucks. While the antlers may make an attractive decoration, shooting just the males does little to decrease the total number of deer because a single male can mate with a number of females.
A hunter can typically harvest six deer a year. That can be four bucks and two does or four does and two bucks. But given the overpopulation, it’s now pretty much open season on does.
“You can get as many doe tags as possible,” Beardsley said. The cost for two doe tags is $20.”
Farmers who have problems with animals damaging their crops don’t even have to do that.
“A farmer doesn’t even need a permit.”
In years past there was a rule that if farmers killed deer because of crop damage, the animal’s body had to be left to rot where it fell. That’s no longer true, Beardsley said.
“A long time ago you couldn’t move move the deer but even then there was some common sense. If you didn’t you’ve have buzzards coming down in the field and causing damage, so we’d say drag it (the dead deer) to a ditch or something.”
Now the rules are even more relaxed.
“If a farmer shoots a deer, especially with permits, they can take them to a needy family or a place that can use them meat.”
Hunting plays a vital role in controlling animal population..
“Hunters are the best management practice that we have,” Beardsley said. “If there aren’t people out there hunting, then the deer population will become overwhelming.”
Stan Winslow doesn’t hunt deer but he has a stake in what happens when there are too many of them.
Winslow is the president of Tidewater Argonomics, an independent agriculture consulting firm with a research office based in Belvidere. They plant soybeans long before most other farmers and their beans are maturing when others in the area are not.
“When that happens every deer in the neighborhood come by,” Winslow said. “We have to get pretty aggressive to control them.”
The company got a depredation permit and shot some of the deer. It also used an effective deer repellant system. Both have costs associated with them, he said.
“You can spend a pile of money on deer repellant,” he said.
It requires paid labor to erect the fabric tape fences, which typically are effective for several weeks before the chemical needs to be sprayed on them again.”
“It would be nice if the deer population would not be quite as heavy,” Winslow said. “It would be better for the deer herd in the long run.”
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