MILBANK – Northeast S.D. residents have filed an appeal against the S.D. Public Utilities Commission’s July 23 approval of the Dakota Range Wind project.
Dakota Range Wind I and II will initially place towers in Codington and Grant Counties. A followup project would place more towers into Grant and also into Roberts County.
Attorney for the interveners is John Wiles of the Watertown firm Wiles & Rylance.
One of interveners listed on the appeal is Kristi Mogen, who along with her husband have a cattle operation new Twin Brooks in Grant County. She said one of the reasons the appeal was filed was the length of time the PUC has to review the project.
“The PUC only gets six months to evaluate these,” Mogen said. “I don’t think that’s enough time for them to get all the information they need to be able to make a great decision. They don’t have the time to review something this complicated and this big.”
Mogen also referred to two terms that opponents have used against wind farms – shadow flicker and infrasound.
Infrasound are sound waves with frequencies below the lower limit of human audibility. Infrasound, created by the turbine blades, has been linked to health problems in humans and other animals, but there have been conflicting reports on the issue in regard to wind towers.
Shadow flicker is the effect caused when rotating wind turbine blades periodically cast shadows through constrained openings such as the windows of neighboring properties. The scale of the problem depends on a number of factors such as wind speed and direction, the position and point of the sun and cloudiness.
As with effects of infrasound, studies of problems caused by shadow flicker have produced conflicting results as to the health hazard.
Mogen said one of the issues of the appeal will deal with property rights and the 1,000-foot setback minimum from residences for those landowners who did not agree to have towers placed on their property. After Codington County officials approved Dakota Ridge, the setback was increased to 1,500 feet. Project opponents requested a 2,000-foot setback.
Mogen said that if shadow flicker or infrasound pass from a neighboring tower onto her property, it’s a violation of her property rights.
“They’re deciding on their health, their risks and whether if they want flicker or infrasound to affect whatever is on their property,” she said. “But they can not put a turbine within 1,500 feet of my property and not be using my land.
“If my cows cross onto his property he’s going to be mad. If I put a strobe light on my property (and direct it) into his house, he’s not going to like it. You don’t want a whole bunch of farmers setting up strobe lights on the outside of their property lines and (flashing) them into somebody’s house. That wouldn’t be polite or nice, and that’s basically what this flicker is.”
Mogen said her family has already moved once because of the energy industry. They had a cattle ranch in Wyoming but a fracking operation two miles away, she claims, caused significant health problems because of continual noise and benzene fumes.
The family, including two children, relocated to her native home of South Dakota.
Mogan also wondered why county officials didn’t further investigate what she says is the socio-economic affects of wind towers.
“When you start looking at the total socio-economic cost of this thing, when the farmers start moving off the land because they can’t live near a turbine because it’s keeping them up all night and destroying their health, those farmers are not going to stay.”
The appeal will be heard in Grant County. Wiles described several back-and-forth steps between his firm and PUC attorneys before the appeals judge brings the case to court.
“I’d be absolutely blowing smoke at you if I could tell you how long it’s going to take,” he said when asked when the trial may take place.
Dakota Wind was created by Apex Energy, which on Aug. 28, was to begin transferring ownership over to eventual owner Xcel Energy.
“We are working through the appeal and will resolve this as the process continues,” said Brooke Beaver, spokesperson for Apex. “Dakota Range Wind 1 and 2 are still on the same timeline, slated for construction in 2020 and operational in 2021.”
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