Michael Bollweg, owner of Tumbleweed Lodge in Hughes County, opposes the development of a nearby $300 million wind farm partly out of concern for his pheasant and grouse hunting operation.
His aunt, Jan Bollweg-Krull, however favors the 47,000-acre Harrold-area development that will include 71 wind towers in Hughes and Hyde counties, two of which will be on her land.
Both spoke during a standing-room-only Wednesday public hearing before the Hughes County Board of Adjustments. After listening to about 15 people during the 2.5-hour hearing, the board voted 4-1 to approve the North Bend Wind Project. A county ordinance allows wind farms in this area with a conditional-use permit.
Chairman Tom Tveit, Mark Smith, Jim Oehlerking and Todd Johnson voted in favor of the project, while Brian Baus opposed the application.
“This is a tough situation,” Tveit said. “There’s a lot of emotion involved because it involves people’s property.”
“My job as member of board of adjustments is to determine if application satisfies all the requirements of the zoning ordinance and I felt that it did,” he added.
ENGIE plans to build 27 towers in Hughes County and has leased 24,591 acres in Harrold and Pleasant Valley, Webster and Butte townships. The French company plans to begin construction later this year and has signed leases with 80 landowners.
The project also needs approval from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
Hyde County officials approved their portion of the development one year ago.
Anthony Crutch, lead developer for ENGIE, said the county will receive $29 million in taxes over the 30-year life of the project and ENGIE will build 35 miles of access roads. The project will create 400 temporary construction jobs and eight to 10 permanent technician positions.
An agreement has been made with the county for road damages.
Speaking against the wind farm, resident John Baldridge considers the turbines “worse than eyesores” and forced on Americans by the Obama and Biden administrations.
“Many people believe they are monuments of destruction on the landscape,” Baldridge, whose background is in the oil and gas industry, said. “What happens at the end of the contract? The end of wind? No one can control the wind. No one can control energy prices.”
Resident Leonard Spomer asked what guarantees the county can make should ENGIE go bankrupt.
“And here we sit with these towers that can’t be used,” Spomer said. “Who will take them down?
Crutch said money is being set aside with the county for removing turbines at the end of their useful life.
Gerry Barnes-Baucom, who owns land in Hughes and Hyde counties, said she is surrounded by the 92-tower Triple H wind farm in Hyde County.
“We almost lost our entire crop season,” Barnes-Baucom said. “The roads were so damaged. We had to change our crop to a later crop and managed to get it in.”
Bollweg is concerned for his hunting operation, which serves more than 400 clients a year and could be as many as 500 this year.
“We have 40 folks we employ and have a great successful business,” he said. “It’s one of the older hunting preserves in the state.”
Bollweg said he has grouse on his property and believes the nearby Triple H wind farm has pushed deer his way.
“There are negative effects with the noise and shadow flicker,” he said.
Bollweg also noted the towers will make it more difficult for aerial crop spraying.
Bollweg-Krull said she comes from a crop-spraying family.
“I have talked to spray pilots in the eastern part of the state and they said ‘if you can’t fly with those wind turbines, you are in the wrong business.'”
She also believes the loss of wildlife is a fallacy.
“I want this project,” Bollweg-Krull said. “Our ranch has been in the family for 114 years. Do you think I would allow these to come on our land and destroy it? I think it’s our right to do what we want with our land as long as we’re not hurting anyone else. It’s a good project for the county and landowners.”
Katherine Porter, who owns 800 acres within a half-mile of the North Bend Wind Project, agreed with Bollweg-Krull.
“I have two pieces of ground I rent,” Porter said. “One has a turbine and the other piece has two turbines. You farm around it. It does not destroy the rest of the ground.”
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