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Officials discuss hiring company to test wind turbine noise

BAD AXE – Huron County officials are a little closer to allowing third-party testing for wind turbine sound complaints – which could cost between $12,000 and $25,000.

The Huron County Board of Commissioners reviewed a proposal Wednesday from ABD Engineering & Design of Grand Rapids to sound test on or near the property of three county residents who have lodged complaints against wind developers in recent years.

Robert Gaffke of Bloomfield Township and Rodney McLean of Harbor Beach have given verbal consent for testing on their property, according to Jeff Smith, county building and zoning director.

Dale Hass of Deerfield Township has not been responsive to Smith’s phone calls or texts, Smith told the Tribune.

At the meeting, Commissioner Steve Vaughan suggested getting written consent from each complainant “so we do not get into a pissing match.”

“We want to make sure (the test) is as legitimate as possible, and nondisputable,” he said.

Smith and four commissioners – three were absent from Tuesday’s committee meeting of the whole – discussed the best way for ABD do sound testing.

The testing should follow the methodology of the county’s 2015 wind ordinance, Smith said, because unlike the 2010 ordinance, it spells out how testing should be carried out.

However, all of the turbines in question were built under the 2010 ordinance.

The 2015 ordinance requires that the testing station be manned. The 2010 ordinance does not.

The proposal from ABD suggested four phases, if necessary.

The first phase would consist of a two-hour manned test at each residence, data gathering and a report. That would cost of $12,000.

The funds would be taken from a special fund that is sponsored by wind developers and set aside for situations such as this, board Chairman Sami Khoury told the Tribune.

Phases two through four would be necessary only if the first phase shows that the sound is louder than allowed by the 2010 ordinance.

If the testing goes to phase 2, the total cost would be $17,500; the cost for going to phase three would be $20,000; and phase four would be $25,000.

It’s also important to do the test in favorable weather conditions, Smith said.

Similar weather conditions would be required for subsequent phases.

The board agreed that ABD should be approached about doing two two-hour periods of manned testing during a two-week test that would not be manned the entire time.

The turbines could also be shut down for a period during that two weeks to measure ambient sound, as required by ordinance.

To satisfy his own curiosity, Vaughan said he drove out to some of the turbines in question.

“It’s not a loud noise, but it is repetitive,” he said.

Representatives from the Big Turtle and Deerfield wind parks were at the meeting, and said they were willing to cooperate with the testing requirements.

Blake Shroll, site manager for Big Turtle, said engineers are working on permanent fixes for the problem.

The Gaffke complaint is against the Big Turtle Phase II development and McLean’s complaint is against the Big Turtle Phase I development. The Hass complaint is against Deerfield.

The Gaffke complaint has been going on since October of 2016.

Smith told the Tribune in an email he is prepared to allow tests on property that is adjacent to Hass’s in the event he does not agree to ABD testing on his property.

In other business at the meeting:

• Commissioner John L. Bodis reported the Huron County Road Commission is discussing leasing the Bird Creek County Park to the village of Port Austin.

• Vaughan reported the Huron County Senior Center roof project is complete.

• Vaughan also reported on a recent Michigan Association of Counties conference in Frankenmuth.

“Huron County is in excellent shape,” he said. “Huron County runs smoothly compared to some of these counties.”

• Finally, Vaughan updated the board on recent developments in deer bait restrictions.