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Winnebago County officials hear about wildlife impacts from wind turbines

On June 8, acreage owner Bruce Bartness alerted Winnebago County supervisors of his and other Norway Township residents’ concerns about potential disruption of wildlife habitats due to pending wind turbine construction plans.

Bartness said he’s lived on his acreage near Hogsback Wildlife area for 16 years and has seen just about every kind of animal and animal habitat imaginable. He cited many species of birds, including swans seen regularly in farm fields there as well as the sounds of sandhill cranes and geese.

Bartness provided supervisors with a copy of a Department of Natural Resources letter and map, noting active eagles’ nests in the area, suggesting it would not be a good spot for wind turbines.

“Norway Township is not a place for turbines,” he said. “There are fish and waterfowl areas and wildlife management areas including Hogsback. Even though it’s (only) recommendations about that area for eagles’ nests, that clearly pretty much takes Norway Township out of mix for a wind turbine.”

At a prior supervisors meeting in February, Matt Helgeson of Lake Mills, who organized a Norway Township petition drive against Invenergy’s planned Worthwhile Wind project, cited 12-15 woodland and wildlife areas where turbine construction is being considered.

A special exception permit application must be submitted for the county’s project approval. After received and when the zoning board has reviewed and addressed the application for permit, a public hearing would be scheduled with recommendations going to the Board of Supervisors for final decision-making on the matter.

In other business:

• After a public hearing from which no written or oral public comments were received, supervisors approved a resolution allowing for an internal loan for the upcoming courthouse re-roof project. The county will amend its Urban Renewal Tax Increment (Revenue) Fund and create an internal advance of funds for the capital project. That advance would be repaid from future incremental property tax revenues derived from the Urban Renewal Area.

The approved resolution directs a $2.5 million advance. County auditor Karla Weiss said county officials do not know the actual internal loan amount that will be needed, at this time.

• Supervisors unanimously approved the formation of a working committee to review and assess the use and requirements pertaining to American Rescue Plan Act funding that the county will receive. The committee members include Winnebago County Conservation Board executive director Robert Schwartz, county recorder Kris Colby, supervisor Susan Smith, county engineer Scott Meinders, county auditor Karla Weiss, and Winnebago Public Health administrator Julie Sorenson with her alternate being Public Health clinical manager Allison Rice.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan, is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress. It was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11 to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.

• Supervisors reset a public hearing for a proposed county budget amendment for 9:05 a.m. on June 29.

• Supervisors also approved a resolution establishing weight restrictions on Winnebago County bridges, which will make load posting signs enforceable by law enforcement. It lists all bridges with weight restrictions in the county