A common question I have been asked is, “Why is the county still looking at information into wind turbines – I thought the project was dead?”
My response is, “Yes, the Harvest Wind project is dead, but as long as Cass County still has a weak WECS ordinance, the next wind company will gladly take advantage of the opportunity to build another project.”
As many of you remember, it was a long process to have three contracts drawn up for our county – Decommissioning Agreement, Agreement Regarding County Roads and Drains and the Economic Development Agreement – all of which are still on the county’s website. These contracts specifically say that the agreement(s) are between Cass County (the “County”) and Harvest Wind Energy LLC (the “Company”), but at any time they can be updated or replaced with a new windfarm project name.
There are several questions that have not been answered due to the lack of a public meeting since RES pulled out of the project.
There is one very important detail that will answer the question above. In the Economic Development Agreement, on page 7 under 6.01 Actions, the last sentence shows why updating the WECS ordinance cannot wait. “The Board of Commissioners shall not vote to approve any changes to the Zoning Ordinance applicable to the Project without prior consultation with the Company as it is the objective of the Parties that the Zoning Ordinance in effect at the time of the Effective Date shall apply and continue to apply to the Project.” This clearly states that, whatever our WECS ordinance says at the time that the contract is signed, it will not change unless a wind company approves it. There is no wind company that will approve a change that will make it more difficult for them to construct a project.
For over a year, there have been countless requests for our county’s ordinance to be revisited, revised and updated to meet the ever changing technology of these massive industrial generators – all of which have been denied time and time again citing that “would never happen.” The information that has been provided over this past year has been dismissed as “fake, untrue and scare tactics.”
I challenge every resident in Cass County to conduct an internet search in several web browsers (because they are not all the same with their algorithms) and do a YouTube search for wind turbine fires, wind turbine shadow flicker, wind turbine noise, wind turbine bird kills, abandoned wind turbines, tornado destroying wind turbines, etc.
Our current ordinance was updated in 2016, but much of the original ordinance which was adopted in 2009 from Benton County still remains. There are several issues with our current WECS ordinance, but because of the space allotted for this article I will just touch on one – the setback of 1,000 feet from the nearest corner of a residential dwelling.
Benton County’s first turbines were approximately 328 feet tall. Fast forward to 2018 and the projected height of the turbines (from the FAA filings) for the Harvest Wind project was 685 feet tall. To put some prospective on the height, the tallest building in Indiana is the Salesforce Tower (which doesn’t have any exterior moving parts) in Indianapolis which stands 701 feet (without the antennas). So imagine having that building 1,000 feet from your home and not the property line.
There are safety manuals that have been very specific regarding a “no linger/evacuation” distance of 1,640 feet for a turbine height of 406 feet (to the tip of the blade). Technology constantly changes and the size of the turbines has nearly doubled, so it only seems logical to enact a WECS ordinance that would insure the safety of the residents in the project area. There is an ongoing lawsuit that is still very active which addresses the subject of our county’s current WECS ordinance setback, which is from a residence and not the property line. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution both state that property shall not be taken without just compensation. This lawsuit has cost the county tens of thousands of dollars, and the costs will continue to increase until the WECS ordinance is changed and all safety issues have been addressed.
So Cass County is far from out of the woods with any future wind project. We need to stay vigilant in our fight for our property values, health, safety and property rights. Continue to proudly display your “No Wind” signs, come to both Commissioner and Plan Commission meetings and let your voices be heard.
Lora Redweik is a resident of Twelve Mile
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