TIFFIN – Opponents of APEX Clean Energy’s Republic Wind Farm project showed up in droves Thursday to an Ohio Power Siting Board hearing, running through a long list of concerns attached to the proposed wind turbines.
The turbines’ potential impacts on karst deposits and groundwater, plus the structures’ threats to migratory birds and bats, were noted in the testimony of several residents who live either within Republic Wind Farm’s proposed footprint or within sight of the turbines.
“At the heart of this is the marginalization of rural residents in Northwest Ohio,” said William Seaman, a Bellevue resident living in Huron County who opposes the project.
Seaman said wind developers hope that residents in rural communities such as Seneca, Sandusky, Huron and Erie counties don’t have the heart and energy to fight projects like Republic Wind.
By 5:40 p.m., 20 speakers had given testimony at the hearing, which started at 3 p.m.
An Ohio Power Siting Board official said 69 people had signed up to speak.
Amid the heavy turnout of residents decked out in yellow shirts that showed their opposition to the project, there also were pockets of Republic Wind supporters in the audience and at the podium.
Roger Walters, a Clyde resident, said he is leasing land to APEX Clean Energy for the project.
Oil and gas leases are already a fact of life in this area, Walters said.
He anticipates that alternative energy will help some farmers supplement their incomes through land leases.
Walters said he made a trip to Van Wert and Paulding counties last year and spoke with some residents there who live near operating wind turbines.
He did not see any of the impacts mentioned by opponents of the Republic project and could not find much opposition to those turbines.
“The attitude was generally one of ambivalence, across the board,” Walter said.
Kip Sisel spoke on behalf of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18 and touted the high-paying jobs the project would bring to the region.
He said union contractors had the necessary training to build the turbines safely and on time.
Safety is also on Casey Didion’s mind, but he and his wife, Deb, oppose the project.
The Didions fear there will be catastrophic environmental impacts on well water systems, a massive redirection of the region’s underground water flow and possible flooding if karst seams along the proposed Republic Wind path are fractured or filled.
Two of 47 proposed Republic Wind Farm industrial wind turbines are slated to go in a neighbor’s cornfield between the Didions’ Sandusky County property and a nearby karst area.
“We have the largest karst formation in Ohio,” Didion said of the deposits found in parts of Seneca, Sandusky and Erie counties.
APEX Clean Energy spokeswoman Natasha Montague previously told the News-Messenger the typical and expected foundation of the turbine models under consideration in the company’s northern Ohio wind projects extend to a maximum depth of approximately 10 feet, which she described as not significant enough to impact groundwater.
She said turbines are intentionally sited away from wells and other water sources.
Other opponents of the Republic project zeroed in on the karst issue.
Dustin Austin, a Thompson Township resident, said there were five proposed turbines within 2,000 feet of his family farm.
There are five sinkholes on his farm. Austin voiced concerns about much wider those sinkholes could grow with turbine construction and operation.
He asked the OPSB to consider local wildlife parks and the need to protect birds, bats and eagles.
“Bird watching is a real thing in this area, which brings tourists to the area,” Austin said.
State law passed in 2014 calls for wind turbines on commercial wind farms to be at least 1,125 feet from the tip of the turbine blade at ninety degrees to the nearest adjacent property line, unless the applicant obtains waivers.
Groton Township resident Dennis Schreiner said public safety should be the top priority when considering the project.
He’d like the setbacks for wind turbines to be at least 1,640 feet from the property line.
“Setback distances at a mile or more from occupied structures are not uncommon,” Schreiner said, referring to setback laws in other states.
There will be an adjudicatory hearing for the Republic Wind project at 10 a.m. Oct. 2 at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in Columbus.
Republic Wind, OPSB staff and parties to the case will present evidence at that hearing regarding the turbines, with a state ruling on APEX Clean Energy’s application anticipated some time after that meeting.