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Lincoln County farmers protest tile breakage from wind tower construction

IVANHOE – Richard and Eileen Nielsen were one of a half dozen farmers to tell the Lincoln County commissioners that the county had to do something about the broken tile and dangerous sink holes left in the wake of the wind turbine construction.

Several farmers had contacted board members directly to tell them that in the course of building the turbines, the wind company had broken tile lines and crushed some road sections creating a flooding situation, Commissioner Joe Drietz said during Tuesday’s county board meeting.

The Nielsens went as far as attending Tuesday’s meeting in person, to tell their county board just how dangerous the situation is.

“It’s enough to make residents want to leave the county,” Richard Nielsen said. “I’m not staying for broadband.”

“We can’t have residents moving out of the county,” Drietz said.

“It’s enough to make me want to leave right now,” Eileen Nielsen said. “There are two sinkholes on our property. They’re so deep you can read the high voltage tape on the power wires (buried there). Our renter can’t even harvest his crops because he might get electrocuted. We don’t want that kind of liability on our property. We want local contractors to fix it. It’s a life-threatening situation.”

Richard Nielsen said that the company laying the connecting cable never even gave them advance notice of when they were activating the current. He found out that day when the company told him to stay at least 500 feet away because they were turning it on then.

The commissioners asked Environmental Administrator Robert Olsen to help address the concerns.

Olsen said he had heard the complaints that Drietz was bringing forth regarding wind towers creating broken tile and blocking water.

“They’re just chopping the corners out and breaking the tile,” Olsen said. “The contractors are concerned about cutting power lines, too. (All) those things have to get fixed this fall,” he said.

“We will address these concerns,” he said. “We laid out perimeters and, to a great extent, they have followed through.

“Initially, they were going to trench (to insert the cable),” Olsen said. “They had local contractors ready to come in behind them and repair, but part way into the project, they changed to plowing in the lines, in which there is no way to tell you’ve cut anything. They had two years to identify and fix those problems. I’ve worked with some of these people.”

There was discussion of water that had seeped across property lines causing erosion. The unfortunate thing about the erosion is that the road they built was on adjoining property, either on the property line, right alongside it or in close proximity to their neighbors, Olsen said. The brims broke and the erosion took place.

“We will address these concerns,” Olsen said. “However, in the end, I have no jurisdiction in these cases. The road was put on the neighbors’ property. I told them to go to the watershed board which has jurisdiction. They took their plans there and got them approved.”

Richard Nielsen reported to the board regarding a picture of one of the affected areas.

“That picture is on my farm,” he said. “I would like the wind towers turned off until they get that figured out.”

Drietz said that EDF Renewable Energy representatives Shanelle Montana and Jim Curtis would come out to meet with Olsen and a couple of the commissioners. The plan was to go to every farmer and show these wind power company representatives what’s going on.

“We need to get this handled,” Drietz said. He asked Olsen to get in touch with the representative.

“I have no problem with that,” Olsen said. “We are going to identify all those problems.”

“We have to get on this,” Drietz said. “It’s not good for the future. This could happen again.”

“We also have issues with open ditches,” Olsen said. “They’ve crossed them. Because of being unaware, they caused flooding. We have to go back and fix those, too. I don’t know how they’re handling the private issues.”

“They went around last year and pinpointed these problems, but no one has gotten back to them, yet,” Drietz said, and the Nielsens agreed.