The county’s public hearing regarding a moratorium on wind facility expansions in Huron County was well attended. Unfortunately, the public hearing was conducted prior to a presentation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and most of the landowners in attendance left without watching it. The presentation should have been conducted prior to the public hearing for several reasons: First, common courtesy. The USFWS representatives travelled to Huron County from Lansing and Minneapolis, Minnesota. They had to sit through 90 minutes of reading published notices and public comments. Second, more people would have heard the presentation. Third, the planning commissioners would have had more information to aid in casting an informed vote. We were not only rude to our guests, but we did a great disservice to the inhabitants of Huron County, human and others.
Once the public hearing ended and the planning commissioners voted 5-4 against a moratorium, the courtroom cleared out. Most of the leaseholders who opposed the moratorium left. Had they stuck around, they may have thought a bit differently about what is happening in our county. The presentation highlighted the concern of wind turbines to bat populations. Per USFWS, the loss of bats will result in a $27.4 million loss to Huron County’s agricultural economy. As everyone knows, bats eat insects. So when it comes to crops and pests, bats play a vital role. There is growing awareness that using more chemicals to control what nature will do naturally is not in the best interest of a healthy environment; that biological and natural solutions that occur in the environment are safer and impose less health risks. Between the loss of bats to the white nose syndrome and collisions in wind energy developments, there is great cause for concern (2011 Bats’ worth to agriculture www.eoearth.org/view/article/165004).
One commenter against a moratorium referred to their “love of the land” and the ability to use the land to produce. What good will come if Huron County, one of the best agricultural areas in the state, can only produce wind? Will wind feed the masses? As stewards of our environment for future generations, will we knowingly aid in the extinction of bat species or will we use due diligence to preserve and protect?
Huron County is called the state’s No. 1 Wind Energy Resource Zone. Over $700 million has been spent on the transmission loop to carry 5,000 MW of energy out of the Thumb. As long as there is an RPS, wind turbines will not go away. But for all those in Huron County who have spent the last 10 years debating the pros and cons of wind energy and attending meetings asking for better protection, it only makes sense to put a temporary halt (moratorium) on further development until planners can carefully rewrite a comprehensive wind ordinance that will protect the health, safety and welfare of all.
Valerie McCallum, supervisor