HUDSON – Opponents of the Washburn Wind Energy project are preparing for battle at a key public hearing next week.
More than 100 residents met in the Hudson High School Auditorium on Tuesday to hear members of Cedar Valley Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy voice their concerns about the planned 35-turbine wind farm in southern Black Hawk County.
“I understand the wind people are out and have done a good job selling their story to the farmers and offering a fair amount of money to them,” said Harold Youngblut, who farms in the turbine area.
“We want to share a little bit about our story and the impacts we believe they have never or will never address,” he added. “It isn’t as rosy as the turbine people like to make it out, and the impact is real.”
Washburn Wind Energy LLC, a subsidiary of DeSoto-based RPM Access, has secured land leases and filed a request with county zoning officials for a special permit to operate the 70-megawatt wind energy generation project.
The company is seeking permission for 39 potential tower locations around Eagle Center, bounded by Griffith Road on the north, Tama Road to the south, Holmes Road on the west, and Iowa Highway 21 on the east. But only 35 of the turbines – 492 feet from the ground to the highest point of a blade – would be constructed.
Greg Cory, who lives in the shadow of several planned turbines, encouraged residents opposed to the project to show up when the county Planning and Zoning Board holds a public hearing Tuesday to make a recommendation on the project and again April 24 when the county Board of Adjustment is expected to vote on the special permit.
“This isn’t over,” Cory said. “We need you to show up at these meetings. We need you to be present. We’re being told this is not a done deal.”
Residents living in and around the proposed wind farm are concerned about negative health impacts caused by noise, shadow flicker from spinning blades, sleep deprivation and light pollution.
While wind energy supporters contend there is no scientific proof linking turbines to human health, Youngblut pointed to Brown County, Wis., where the county Board of Health in 2014 declared a wind farm in its jurisdiction as a human health hazard.
Opponents also believe the turbines will harm livestock and local wildlife, including eagles, bats and bees; lower their property values; take some of the richest farm land in the world out of production; and hurt radio, television, wireless internet and cellphone service.
“These things definitely affect RF communications,” Cory said. “They can create a dead zone in this entire area where your cell phones don’t work. How are you going to call 911 if your cellphone doesn’t work?”
Washburn Wind Energy’s application includes studies related to shadow flicker, noise and radio communications. Company officials said those studies comply with the county’s zoning ordinance, while they believe their application meets requirements for the issuance of a permit.
But Wayne McGarvey believes the application falls short several areas, while the county ordinance is too lenient on wind energy regulations.
“The shadow flicker on my house (will be) 41 hours a year, 211 days a year,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Youngblut, who has friends signed up to have turbines on their farms, said the project is causing strife.
“I’m still going to be friends with the guys, hopefully,” Youngblut said. “But the money’s not worth what it’s going to do to your neighbors, and it’s not worth tearing our community apart.
“That’s the unfortunate part about having to take a side, the risk of losing friendships,” he added.
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