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Seneca County wind farm controversy discussed at public hearing

TIFFIN – The drama of the Seneca Wind Farm controversy rose to a boil at a Tuesday public hearing.

Community members provided testimony for and against Seneca Wind LLC’s application to construct a wind farm in Seneca County at the Ohio Power Siting Board’s five-hour public hearing at Tiffin University’s Marion Center, 235 Miami St. The hearing allowed members of the public not parties to the case to provide sworn testimony to be added to the case record.

Opponents to wind farm construction cited potential issues with noise, infra-sound, shadow flicker. bird/bat mortality, and other environmental concerns against wind farm construction. However, many pro-wind farm constituents stressed the $56 million possible economic impact it could bring to the community – especially for schools – and that the downsides are relatively negligible.

Currently, farmers in Seneca County have experienced a downturn due to spring rainfall and high tariffs, so the project could offer “new revenue sources during a difficult time,” Patrick O’Connor, a testifier from the nearby area, said.

Others added that switching to clean wind energy in the area can benefit the county for generations to come. “It is important to rely on scientific, peer-reviewed data” when discussing the impact of the wind farms, said Anne Fry, a locally retired teacher and Seneca County Farm Bureau board trustee who had talked to people in surrounding areas with wind farms. She said she has heard of little negative impact from people in nearby communities who already have wind farms.

Many believe that the added revenue is not worth it and that the negatives have been downplayed. Some citizens fear that their concerns are ignored and that the wind farm project is part of “a cumulative effort to turn [Seneca County] to an industrial zone,” Tiffin resident Jim Feasel said in his testimony. He and other anti-wind testifiers also highlighted the effects on vulnerable populations, especially those sensitive to noise and light, and the possible degradation of the county airport’s usefulness, which would decrease economic county benefits.

“Why does this agency even exist if not to protect the citizens of this county,” Mr. Feasel said. “You can watch as the blood of these citizens boils because their voices have been ignored at every step of the way.”

Not all citizens are opposed, of course. James Schumacher, county resident, said many anticipate the farming economy’s boost, new clean energy, increased jobs through the project, and better education if the company constructs the wind farms.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Mr. Schumacher.

The Ohio Power Siting Board staff previously recommended denial of the proposed facility until the ODOT Office of Aviation and Federal Aviation Administration have completed their analysis of potential impacts to air navigation.

The adjudicatory hearing will begin on August 26 at 10 a.m. in Columbus, where Seneca Wind, OPSB staff, and others can offer testimony before an administrative law judge. OPSB will then schedule the project decision at a later date.