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Nemaha County commissioners to consider a moratorium

Following an executive session with their hired wind farm attorney James Neeld, the Nemaha County Commissioners opened their Monday, May 6, meeting up for public discussion regarding the Soldier Creek Wind Farm, which has been proposed in southern Nemaha County.

Although no action was taken following that executive session, Chairman Gary Scoby announced that the Nemaha County Commissioners will be considering a moratorium at their next meeting on Monday, May 13, on any utility projects – including wind development – in Nemaha County for a designated period.

“This resolution states the commissioners will not hear any requests to use roads, infrastructure and any other public areas of Nemaha County for a period of six months,” Scoby said. “This resolution will not apply to the Soldier Creek Wind Farm development currently pending before commissioners.”

Following the announcement, commissioners allowed seven people to speak – who did not speak or were unable to speak due to time constraints – at the Thursday, April 25, public hearing.

Those seven speakers were Janice Kramer Baehrens, Brandi McCoy, Charity Henry, Greg Allen, Randy Garber, Diane Haverkamp and Leo Niehues. Each spoke in opposition of the term sheet that was released to the public on April 1, 2019. Below are some of the statements and points that were discussed.

Kramer Baehrens discussed a 2014 study done in the Rural Society of Medicine. This study listed neurological, cardiovascular, psychological, and systemic health issues that can result from living in close proximity to wind turbines. She also mentioned another study that reported that low frequency vibrations emitted by wind turbines can cause altered behavior, deformities, miscarriages and premature births.

“Is this the potential that we want for our children and our grandchildren?” Kramer Baehrens asked. “The risk is not worth it.”

McCoy said that she does not support the term sheet setback requirements from her own experiences around turbines. McCoy discussed a friend of hers who lives in the Flint Hills.

“It was one of the first Flint Hills ranches to put up wind turbines,” McCoy said. “When you compared his ranch to the proposed wind farm in Nemaha County, my friend’s situation is far different. My friend’s ranch is 8,000 acres and lies in the middle of nowhere. The nearest home is several miles away and he affects no one by his actions. My friend is very pro-renewable energy, as I am, so I sat down with him to learn his side of the story. What he said surprised me. When I told him of our own struggles in Nemaha County he told me, ‘Those turbines don’t belong in your county. They don’t belong in any populated area, because no matter where they are placed, they will impact other people.’”

McCoy said that in her time at her friend’s ranch around the turbines makes her uneasy, because “not only do the turbines roar, but the paint on the blades is defective and peeled.”

McCoy also said that while she believes it is someone’s right to do with their land as they please, that right stops when it adversely affects other people.

“Wind turbines do adversely affect other people,” she said. “When the sound of your wind turbines enters my home, you trespass. When your turbines cast shadows on my home, you trespass.”

McCoy also said she believes that turbines should be placed no closer than one mile from any home.

C. Henry addressed the property line setbacks and turbine blade failure. She cited a source who studied turbine blade failure, which bases the setbacks off of the release velocity of the blade fragments to determine the maximum distance the fragments are likely to travel.

“It looks at the probability a blade fragment will be thrown beyond the setbacks and it addresses the probability of blade failure and turbine failure per year,” C. Henry said.

C. Henry presented commissioners with pictures from a blade failure in Ontario, Canada, in May 2018. This document showed the blade fragment sizes and distances those fragments were found from the base of the turbine.

“Almost all of the major and minor debris was found outside of the current term sheet property setbacks of 500 feet,” C. Henry said. “Property line setbacks need to be determined by science, not politics.”

Garber said it comes down to property rights for both the participating and non-participating landowners.

“That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “I would encourage both sides to continue telling their story, because we are the ones who live here.”

The commissioners will meet again at 9 a.m. Monday, May 13, in the Commissioners Room of the Nemaha County Courthouse. If you are interested in the audio recording from this meeting, please email us at news@sabethaherald.com.