July 2, 2022

Page County board delays vote on proposed ‘Shenandoah Hills’ wind farm

Ethan Hewett | www.kmaland.com

(Clarinda) – The long-running debate over a proposed wind turbine project in Page County will have to wait at least a few more weeks for a decision.

Meeting in special session Thursday afternoon, the Page County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing and ultimately delayed a formal vote on the permit application for Invenergy’s proposed “Shenandoah Hills” wind farm project south of Shenandoah. The decision primarily came after a discussion with Jenny Burkhiser with KYFR in Shenandoah, who says three turbines for the project are located within three kilometers of the station’s AM transmitter towers. However, Burkhiser says there has been little cooperation from Invenergy since March in seeking necessary information to complete their legal obligations.

“We specifically asked for the proposed height of the structures, with and without the blades at their highest point, the physical coordinates, even a range would be okay, and how many feet, miles, or kilometers in distance the proposed turbines are from each of our respective AM towers,” said Burkhiser. “No response has been made about these questions, so we can not determine whether there would be an issue – in fact I was only able to find the turbine plans on the Page County website yesterday.”

FCC guidelines lay out the three-kilometer distance from AM towers to avoid interference to the tower’s support structure and signal if no other mitigation strategies are taken.

Carl Sonksen is the Page County Attorney. After speaking with Pete Stansbury with Nordland Insurance, the county’s insurance provider, and County Auditor Melissa Wellhausen, Sonksen says the KYFR situation would warrant holding off on approval.

“Given those issues, I don’t there would be much harm to delay the vote to allow that issue to be looked at,” said Sonksen. “So my general thought on this is, the safest route of the county after talking with Pete (Stansbury) and then you guys to solve that issue before there’s a vote taken.”

A packed Page Room of county residents continued to call for the supervisors to vote down the project. Several suggested addressing issues such as reducing the proposed project boundary, which extends well beyond the proposed turbine area, moving 1,500-foot setbacks to the property line, and pursuing more details about the decommissioning process. While some have dismissed the concerns as hypothetical, Page County resident Mitch Grossoehme says the hypothetical is why the changes are needed.

“We’re told ‘we don’t want to deal with the hypothetical’ – all we have is the hypothetical,” said Grossoehme. “We have homeowners insurance because of the hypothetical, we have car insurance because of the hypothetical, things happen because we didn’t deal with the hypothetical. And we’re going to move forward with a lousy ordinance, because we’re not worried about the hypothetical – it doesn’t make sense.”

Shari Hunter, who lives on a small acreage near Blanchard, says small landowners and those who earned their land have been left out of the equation. Additionally, Mary Ann Gibson raised concerns over one turbine proposed near the Wabash Trace Nature Trail that falls within a required half-mile setback laid out in the county ordinance for “all other parks or areas” not listed as a state or federal park or managed by Page County Conservation. The board suggested Invenergy continue to work with Becca Castle Laughlin, Southwest Iowa Natural Trails President, who oversees the trail.

Despite the severe pushback on the project and questioning Invenergy’s integrity, primarily rooted in a recently broken road use agreement, at least one resident says the possible tax benefits could be impactful. Resident John Whipple says he spoke with an Atchison County commissioner who says wind turbines were one of the “best things to happen to the county.”

“They’ve got the farmer income, they’ve got the increased tax base, the school gets a benefit off of it, and numerous things around the community of Tarkio get a benefit off of it,” said Whipple. “One of the people that works at the school told me the same thing – that there school can do stuff now that it never could before without these windmills.”

Invenergy officials anticipate the “Shenandoah Hills” project to bring $1 million in property taxes to the county annually and $1.5 million in landowner payments each year. In response to the larger project boundary, Mike Blazer, who serves as legal counsel for Invenergy, says any turbines not included in the current project would be subject to a similar process and the ordinance in place at the time of a submitted application.

“If there was a desire to either cite a new project or amend the existing one with additional turbines, which is effectively the same thing,” he said, “given the county has already indicated an intention to amend its ordinance, that new or amended project would be subject to the ordinance that was in effect that the application was filed.”

The county is still in a moratorium on accepting any wind energy conversion system applications. The board is expected to re-open the discussion at an evening meeting on July 12 to allow further deliberation between KYFR and Invenergy.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/07/02/page-county-board-delays-vote-on-proposed-shenandoah-hills-wind-farm/