August 27, 2021

County Board holds wind energy hearing

Scott Koperski, Daily Sun news editor | Aug 26, 2021 |

Gage County officials heard nearly two hours of public testimony Wednesday evening regarding wind energy from area residents hoping for more strict regulations.

A total of 22 people spoke during the hearing before the County Board of Supervisors regarding proposed changes to the current regulations regarding commercial wind energy.

A common theme presented was a desire to increase setback requirements for turbines. One concern discussed was that turbines could harm the viewshed of Homestead National Historical Park.

Ross Trauernicht, who is the village chairman of Pickrell, said the one mile setback from towns or villages isn’t enough, and would limit potential growth of Gage County communities.

“One mile is not enough,” he said. “One mile limits our growth. After one mile our growth would be done. No more housing, no more businesses, no more developments. After one mile we would be done until the windmills are done and gone.”

Trauernicht suggested a setback of at least three miles from a turbine to the property line of a town or village.

Ashley Mason of Beatrice told the board wind turbines could be detrimental to area parks, and asked for increased setbacks to at least three miles from those areas.

“I’ve spent weeks this month thinking of all our parks, recreation areas and wildlife habitats in Gage County that I bring my children to and how seeing a wind turbine while visiting them would strip us of the joy we have when we visit these areas,” she said. “We go to these beautiful places to relax and enjoy the beauty of Nebraska.”

Preston Oltman, who farms Near Pickrell, suggested increased setbacks would also benefit farmers. He said aerial applications for crops have grown in popularity, and turbines would limit where planes could fly.

“Allowing the setback to be determined from a nonparticipating residence does not do nearly enough to protect the rights of growers in our area who use aerial applications to their full extent,” he said. “Especially considering the growing impact aerial applications have on our production system and the profitability of growers in our area. If the setback is only determined based on a nonparticipating residence instead of the property line we could see large areas of cropland become almost inaccessible for safe aerial applications.”

The board’s policy is to not take action following a public hearing to allow time for any follow up questions, and members will likely vote on changes to the regulations during the next regular County Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

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