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Richardson and Oak Creek townships approve wind turbine regulations

Richardson and Oak Creek townships resoundingly approved safety regulations related to the development of wind turbines. Their moves followed the example of Savanna, Skull Creek and Franklin township voters.

On Wednesday night in Dwight, the Richardson Township board met at the Dwight Fire Hall with 69 of its registered voters in attendance.

Later, in Brainard, Oak Creek Township’s meeting filled the American Legion Hall with 117 voters and around 20 others who came to speak or watch the proceedings. Richardson Township is in the southeast corner of Butler County and Oak Creek is its neighbor to the north.

In both townships, only a handful of people voted against putting the regulations in place.

In Brainard, loud cheers accompanied the announcement of votes of 114-3, 114-1 and 113-1 for the three different decisions.

Two regulations have been passed: The first bans the placement of high voltage power lines under township property. The other places a 1,640 setback requirement from any property not associated with the wind farm development and also from township roads, and it also limits the noise created by the turbines during overnight hours.

A separate measure was passed giving the township the authority to enact the regulations. In the midst of the discussion is the possibility that the regulations will be challenged in court.

Lisa Sullivan, project manager for NextEra Energy Resources, also was in attendance, as was Omaha attorney David Levy. At both meetings, Levy made the argument that townships do not have the authority to enact zoning rules, under state law.

Lincoln attorney Greg Barton, who was advising the townships, countered that state law does not preclude townships from taking action regarding their property and access to roads. Both agreed that the issue wouldn’t be settled at the township level meeting.

The regulations were drawn up by the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers, a group of concerned citizens that was organized when wind development plans became known last spring.

Vera Mathis, a land agent working with NextEra, said that the setbacks under the NextEra contracts exceed those that are recommended by the turbine manufacturers. She also said that the contracts for landowners who work with NextEra include decommissioning plans and other safeguards for the landowner’s benefit.

Mathis also said landowners should also consider that the long term benefit of the property taxes paid for the wind turbines is lowering taxes for all of the area’s taxpayers.

“Really you should come and review our contract and consider not voting for this law,” Mathis said.

Across northern and eastern Butler County, NextEra Energy resources is looking to build a complex of up to 112 wind turbines.

The regulations:

Here are summaries of the regulations passed.

A ban on the placement of a high voltage (greater than 480 volts) power line under the town property, including town roads, right-of-ways, and ditches within the township.

Each turbine will be no less than 1,640 feet from any property line of an owner not associated with the project. Each turbine will be no less than 1,640 feet from any town road.

The regulations also limit the amount of noise a turbine can generate between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and lower limits for the period between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The limits would be set by a pre-construction noise study.

The turbines also must meet federal aviation requirements, including lighting and interference issues. Strobe lighting should be avoided if alternative lighting is allowed.

The distance between tower supports bases must be spaced a minimum of five rotor diameters distance figured by the size of the largest rotor.

Each tower must have a decommissioning plan to outline the means, procedures and cost of removing the turbines and all related supporting infrastructure and a bond or equivalent enforceable resource to guarantee removal and restoration within a year of decommissioning.