PRINCETON – The “Z” word, a decades-long point of controversy for Gibson County, resurfaced Tuesday.
A spokesman for GibCoWind citizens group told Gibson County Commissioners Tuesday that zoning is the most effective tool for assuring a proposed wind turbine farm doesn’t adversely affect area residents, after reporting that experts say the proposed project will affect the accuracy of the National Weather Service Doppler radar tower serving this area.
Citing information she obtained from Don Waddell, a physicist who has given expert testimony on wind turbine impact on Doppler radars and from Jessica Schultz of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service, Sarah Newton of Poseyville told commissioners that the proposed wind turbines in Gibson and Posey Counties would be too close to the $8.7 million NEXRAD Doppler radar tower constructed in 2003 between Owensville and Johnson.
Newton said the experts say the turbines will affect the tower’s ability to provide accurate low-level data to National Weather Service offices in Paducah, Kentucky, St. Louis, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and Indianapolis.
Newton reported that the wind turbulence generated by the turbines, while not visible, can mask true low-level weather data from the Doppler radar.
She told the board that E.ON Climate and Renewables’ proposed turbines, at 591 feet tall, would be the tallest in the state, and she said NWS/NOAA have no legal authority to stop a wind project. Newton also said experts told her there’s no equipment that can be attached to turbines to prevent the interference.
She told commissioners that enacting a zoning ordinance is the only way to protect the integrity of the Doppler radar’s ability to monitor low-level weather.
Gibson County Board of Commissioners President Steve Bottoms told Newton and the GibCoWind group in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting that the county has authority over setbacks from county roads and bridges, but without zoning, has no control over private property.
Newton asked commissioners to request a full report on the potential impact from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. She said experts have told her that any turbine located within 11 miles from the Doppler tower can cause moderate to severe damage to the data-gathering integrity.
County Commissioner Gerald Bledsoe said he hasn’t heard of definitive heights for proposed turbines.
The GibCoWind group encouraged commissioners to revive the county’s exploration of land use planning/zoning, which was abruptly dropped in early 2018.
Commissioners didn’t discuss Tuesday whether they would consider reappointing an advisory planning committee to revive the zoning study.
In other business at Tuesday night’s session, commissioners:
• Reported they will open bids for demolition of four structures through the Blight Elimination Project grant Aug. 6.
• Approved a 30 mph speed limit for a section of County Road 450 South from County Road 675 East to County Road 800 East.
• Tabled a decision, pending consultation with the county attorney, over whether a health department position funded with a Department of Homeland Security Grant should be advertised as a part-time employee of the county or as a contracted position.
• Approved using $54,400 in their budget as a downpayment on a new ambulance to replace one of the county’s back-up units. Gibson County Emergency Medical Service Director Jim Allen reported the ambulance would be ready for delivery in February 2020, and he hopes to pay the balance with funds budgeted next year.
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