The Coalition for Rural Property Rights has organized in Kossuth County. Its intent is to educate landowners on why industrial wind turbines are not compatible with farming.
“It is agriculture land. It is not industrial land and this is an industrial project,” said Mick Schlievert, a concerned property owner who lives at Oak Lake. “It is an issue of a qualify of life and is why we chose to live here and stay here.”
Recently, a meeting was held at the Algona Public Library forming the Coalition for Rural Property Rights. The focus is to educate landowners and the coalition is stressing several points to do this.
“Wind energy companies may understand wind energy,” said Janna Andrews, who works with the group writing press releases and other materials. “We understand farming. They do not understand farming.”
The key points stress the coalition’s contention that industrial wind turbines are not compatible with farming. The points include efficiency, drainage, aerial applications, precision farming, decommissioning and property values.
The coalition states that the turbines will depreciate in value every year and eventually a turbine will depreciate property values.
There are also dangerous conditions to consider like blades failing, debris and ice being thrown to nearby properties, turbine fires, stray voltage and high voltage cables in the land that may shift over time, the coalition states.
Also, the coalition contends that wind contracts are one-sided and are not in the landowner’s favor. The group cites that contracts are written by the wind company for the wind company, easements can be sold or transferred without property’s consent and the wind companies must approve any development of lands.
The Coalition for Rural Property Rights was started in Palo Alto County in response to a wind turbine ordinance being passed in that county.
“We all spoke out loudly against the ordinance,” Andrews said. “When it passed, we felt this was our only recourse to go to the public ourselves.”
The coalition started in Palo Alto County in September.
“Local farmers put efforts into shaping the zoning ordinance with the Palo Alto County Zoning Board. We felt we had something workable for farmers and agriculture and wind energy companies,” said Board Member Jay Clasing “The wind energy companies shaped our supervisors into gutting ordinances put out by our local zoning board. We wanted one-half mile setbacks like our good neighbor policy that’s already been adapted in Palo Alto County for many years.
We felt it was a good framework to go forward, but the wind energy companies wouldn’t let that work.”
On Thursday, Feb. 23, farmers and others interested in agriculture lands, attended a meeting forming the Coalition for Rural Property Rights in Kossuth County. Among those attending was Kelly Nye.
Nye said he lives right in the middle of the largest wind farm in the world in O’Brien County, Iowa, where there are 300 wind turbines.
“I used to think I lived in the most fantastic place in the state of Iowa,” he said during an interview after the meeting.
“And now sadly, when I’m coming home from 30 miles away, I can see where I’m coming home to and I live in the worst place in Iowa.”
When asked why he considered it the worst place, Nye said the noise and the problems neighbors have with each other. “There are two sides of this wind thing. There is somebody who wants a windmill and apparently, they’re the only ones that have rights,” he said. “The people who maybe don’t want to have a windmill, they have to have right too.”
He said the companies that build windmills know how to get the job done.
Nye does not have a wind farm, but does have 60 acres that he said he wasn’t able to plant until June 1 because of damage that was done to the tile across the road from him. “They don’t understand farming. There is no question that they do not understand farming,” he said. “I have modern equipment that drives itself. It has to have a signal to do that and the windmills definitely interfere with that signal. You either don’t have the quality of autotrac that you should have or sometimes when your signal gets to a certain point, your tractor quits auto steering because it is dangerous when it doesn’t have the correct signal.”
Nye also commented on roads and bridges. “I’m supposed to obey the laws when I’m driving across roads and bridges with the weight,” he said. “They went across the bridges with stuff that I can’t imagine the amount of damage we have for heavy traffic on bridges.”
He added that the equipment destroys the gravel roads. “It is not made for that type of weight,” he said. “They spend an amount of money building up the roads to their substation. The majority of the roads are in far worse shape than when they came.”
Nye said it takes the quality of life down where I live. “My feeling and it is pretty strong, if they had come to O’Brien County and started from scratch, everybody knowing what they know now, they would never get this wind project passed,” he said.
Kris Laubenthal, who farms with her husband between Wesley and Titonka, which is in the middle of a proposed MidAmerican Energy wind farm, said the majority of the people that have signed on are not farmers or they’re non-resident landowners.
“They collect cash rent paycheck and don’t really care about the yield that is going to be affected by this,” she said during an interview after the coalition meeting. “Granted they are going to come in and they’re going to fix your tile, but as we mentioned earlier it can take years to rebuild that.”
Laubenthal said we’re very careful going across our ground. “We’re stewards of the land. We’re very careful about taking care of it,” she said. “We’re on it for a while, but it is going to be there for ever. There is going to be five generations past me farming it.”
She added that the wind farms are only going to be there for a few years. “The damage they are going to make is potentially quite devastating. That is our main concern,” she said. “We would like to improve our ground, put some tile in and do these things. But if I have neighbors in the area who are going to put up these wind farms, wreck their tiles on their land that means my land won’t drain. Not only will I not be getting a paycheck for not having a wind farm, I will still have reduced yield because of the wrecked drainage.”
Laubenthal also discussed her GPS system. She said they have invested money into a GPS system and it has been “wonderful” to have. “We have one spot on one farm we have that is just a spot near a tower and a power line. My tractor gets near it and automatically cuts out,” she said. “This is just one little spot. If we have these windmills put in the area, we’ve basically just wasted $10,000 on this system.”
She is also concerned if the millions of dollars in tax money are coming into the county, she’s not convinced that money is going to go to the places it needs to go. “We live on gravel road and near a bunch of gravel roads and they are not maintained well now,” Laubenthal said. “We are constantly on the phone with the supervisors and county maintenance. We go out and maintain one of the roads ourselves because we can’t get the county to take care of the problem.”
She also has issues with easements. “What I know is if I want to put up a windbreak, house or building on that 160 acres I need to get permission from the wind energy company just to do that,” she said.
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