Local politics can get just as heated as major national issues. And some in Iowa County feel that their concerns about a new wind turbine farm set to start popping up this summer was not heard. A Facebook group has become a listening post for critics of the plan, which Invenergy has been working on for MidAmerican Energy for three years. Critics like Abby Maas say despite years of work, they didn’t realize what was going on, because their property was not considered for a turbine.
Maas says other counties have been more proactive and more transparent before construction begins. “There’s other counties in Iowa that have a 4-step process to this, where they have an information meeting, they have the DNR come in, they have some kind of hearing and then the supervisors vote.”
Supervisor John Gahring says the county did not get involved in the same way they stay out of other private business matters until it involves zoning or ordinance issues. In this case, Invenergy secured land agreements with hundreds of property owners in rural Iowa County before coming to the board and asking them to approve rules that would govern the wind turbines’ installation.
Maas doesn’t believe that was any ill-intention on anyone’s part, she simply wishes there was more of a chance for those whose land is not directly impacted to weigh in. “Our turbines are going to be the biggest in the state, 600 feet and we currently have a 1600 foot setback distance which is the same for a 400 foot in Poweshiek county and I would like to see us have a bigger setback distance regarding the size.”
Another critic delivered a petition to the county supervisors a month before the vote. It contained 124 signatures requesting a half-mile setback distance from “non-participants’ property lines.” But that request was not approved.
Supervisor Gahring says he understands why some who could wind up living near a turbine are concerned. “The blinking lights at night and it changes the landscape forever, you know we’re a pretty rural country, and people like the peaceful tranquility they have.” Critics also say that wind turbines can lower property values, and affect the nearby land still being used by area farmers. But, at this point, there’s little that can be done as all of the private and public obligations have been met.
Maas says she hopes this serves as a warning to other eastern Iowa counties where turbines have not arrived yet. “They’re going east, they’re going to keep going, Johnson County, others that are along the way I want them to learn from us that you need to have the structures in place, the rules in place, that these guys have to follow before they come in and start getting people to sign agreements and start pressuring them.”
CLICK HERE to read the agreement between Iowa County and Invenergy.
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