Local area farmer Jay Clasing and around 20 other landowners from Palo Alto County met with the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors at their regular meeting Tuesday, January 19, to share questions and concerns regarding proposed wind farms in the county.
“I hope this will be an informative, educational meeting for all of us,” Supervisor Chair Linus Solberg began.
“Contrary to some local opinions and phone calls that have been made, we are not opposed to wind mills but we do have some questions and concerns,” Clasing said. “We as a group of landowners, tenants and farmers have some concerns about the protection of the rights of those landowners who choose not to sign easements with the wind mill company. ”
“One of our main concerns in talking with individual farms is about air space, thus hindering our ability to use best management practices to grow our crops.”
Mike Storr, Technical Service Representative for BASF was on hand to give thoughts on the wind farms. Storr stated that it could be a potential issue moving forward regarding pest control and wind farms. He went on to explain that a ground sprayer with a 120-foot boom at eight miles per hour could cover 73 acres per hour. Whereas a fixed wing plane can cover 300 acres per hour and with a helicopter you are down to 200 acres per hour. Explaining that it is important to keep crop coverage in perspective when dealing with wind farms.
Kelly Ney is a farmer from Primghar who has experience farming with in a wind farm and the experiences they have had in O’Brien County.
“I have seen your future cause I live in the forest of wind mills now and I’m here to tell you what farming is like in that area. Obviously. The ground is getting farmed yet,” Ney said. “There is a lawyer in Primghar that everyone takes their contracts to and he has never told anyone to sign it because of the way the contract is written.”
“It does not matter if you sign a contract or not, if you farm, you are going to deal with wind mills because someone is going to sign a contract. ”
Ney went on to say that the best advice he could give is to read the contract carefully and communicate with your neighbors. The companies have thought of everything and many will get blind-sided. He continued by telling the Supervisors that they need to pay attention and be proactive. Check into how much tax money the county will actually get off these windmills.
“Some things for the Supervisors to consider are the roads and bridges. That sign that says how much weight can go over a bridge might as well get thrown out. They don’t pay any attention to them and the people who don’t sign contracts should have some rights too,” Ney stated.
“We haven’t finished our zoning ordinance yet. How do you feel about setbacks?” Supervisor Ed Noonan questioned.
“In O’Brien County, we used the hog building set backs. What is your setback for hog buildings?” Ney asked.
“A half mile,” Noonan replied.
“That’s not really far enough for a wind mill in my opinion,” Ney responded.
“Mike, if you were sitting on this side, there is no one sitting up here that wants to stop the wind farms. We need to represent both sides. What advice do you have?” Solberg asked.
“Green energy is good. When you are impacting a landowner and his farming operation is hampered, I think you need to have some consideration for them,” Storr said.
“I think it is unreasonable for me to tell my neighbor not to sign an easement. It is his right. I do think there should be a setback for those landowners who do not sign an easement,” Clasing said.
Talks continued going over setbacks from public land and waters and what a setback should be from someone’s property line that did not sign an easement.
Joe Neary, Zoning Officer informed the group that the Palo Alto County Zoning Commission will be holding a meeting on Monday, January 25 at 7 p.m. to discuss and review what they have written so far.
In other business, John Rosengren, Drainage Engineer from Bolton & Menk, Inc. of Spencer was on hand to file a report on the repair of the open ditch in Drainage District 61. According to Rosengren, there are 35,500 acres that are in the watershed of DD 61 but only 14,804 acres are assessed. Rosengren also recommended the annexation of 20,660 acres into DD 61 if just the repair was done and then reclassify the district. The Board voted unanimously to accept the report.