DAKOTA CITY – The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors heard a variety of opinions on wind energy at Monday’s meeting.
About 30 residents showed up and about eight voiced their opinion. Some were against the wind turbines coming into the county, some were in favor, and others took a neutral stance, but urged the supervisors to draft an ordinance protecting the county’s rights.
Wind energy companies have contacted Humboldt County Economic Director Alissa O’Connor, and companies have come to the county four times to talk about wind energy, board President Rick Pedersen said.
“As board members we have not been approached by anyone formally,” he said.
One company held a meeting at Rustix several weeks ago and sent invitations to landowners, which was attended by about 100 people, Pedersen said.
“We wanted to get it out to the public before everybody is aware of what is going on because I don’t want the impression that we are trying to slide something under the table,” he said. “We have had no involvement in it as of yet.”
The landowners who have been contacted probably know more than the board, he said.
“The board members have all been very active reading materials, talking to other counties, talking to farmers, people in town,” Pederson said. “Whenever I get the chance I ask people, what is your opinion? This is a big change to the community. It is a good tax base for the county which does lower property taxes for everyone in the future.”
The county has a wind turbine ordinance from 2009 but the board feels it needs to be updated. It deals mainly with individuals who wish to install the wind turbines.
Lonnie Larsen said she is against the wind turbines. Larsen said according to information she obtained online a landowner is asked to sign a lease agreement even before they are told how many wind turbines will be on their property.
“There are some things that are more precious than just dollars,” she said. “Dollars are disposable. The other that is more important is a lifetime for generations, what it does to a landscape.”
Gary Kuehnast said the way the economy is, it is going to take some outside income to keep some family farms going. The board could write an ordinance placing restrictions on wind turbines, but don’t keep them out, he said.
“Leave that option available to us,” he said. “It is important you protect the county rights of ways, the tile systems, that type of thing.”
“Leave it open for the landowner to make their own decision on their property what they want to do,” he said. “Don’t hamstring us, don’t stop us. The windmills are a lot better than a hog setup.”
It involves a seven-year process before the wind turbines can be up and running, Pedersen said.
“It is really open to the landowners if this is going to happen or not,” he said. “If the landowners do not sign leases they are not going to go there. I don’t think it is the job of the county to tell people what they can do with their land. I think we should oversee it somewhat so it doesn’t get abused. But we don’t have the right to tell you what you can or cannot do with your land, I don’t feel.”
Beaver, Grove, Lake and Norway townships are possible sites for the wind turbines, primarily because of access to a transmission line, Pedersen said.
Paul Anderson said wind energy is not new technology. Farmers have been using wind power since the 1900s. It used to be about every quarter mile someone had a windmill. If the technology isn’t against state and federal law why should local government micromanage the landowner, he said.
The board was presented with a petition signed by 44 residents. The petition asks for a restrictive county ordinance on wind turbines. Signers were concerned it will create health issues, ruin the beautiful landscape, and create hostility between landowners and homeowners and the county.
The income from a wind farm does not make up for the loss created for the peace and tranquility of future generations the petition stated.
Supervisor Bruce Reimers said the board was not trying to micromanage anybody but was trying to figure out the best way to protect county’s infrastructure.
The board will have a work session on an ordinance.