Dickinson County board rejects Invenergy permit to install new wind turbines in the Iowa Great Lakes area
Plans for a new wind farm in the Iowa Great Lakes region hit a major roadblock Wednesday night. Opponents of a proposed wind farm in the Iowa Great Lakes region credit a grassroots effort for putting a pause on the project located east and southeast of East Lake Okoboji.
Emotions ran high as the Dickinson County Board of Adjustment turned down a permit for Invenergy to install up to 79 turbines. Tears streamed down the face of resident Kris Van Kleet after the Dickinson County Board of Adjustment denied a permit for the Red Rock Energy Center.
“God is good, that’s all I can say,” she said.
For three nights, the board heard from people on both sides of the issue at the courthouse in Spirit Lake. The hearing was originally supposed to take place on one night, but the period was extended since so many people were expected to comment.
Van Kleet helped start the group Dickinson County Concerned Citizens to protest the project six months ago. Dozens showed up in full force to say why they didn’t want turbines near their homes. They talked about potential impacts on health, wildlife, property values, and tourism.
Van Kleet now says the focus will be on repairing relationships since many property owners signed up for the project.
“And I pray that our neighborhood will heal,” she said. “I pray that our community would heal, that people would forgive and remember that we’re still neighbors and we’re still people.”
Many opponents said the setback rule of 1,200 feet from a residence was outdated since turbines are taller today. The ones pitched for the project were almost 600 feet high. Before the vote, Invenergy offered to honor a setback distance of 1,600 feet.
Supporters of a wind energy farm in the Iowa Great Lakes area say they were stunned when county officials denied the permit.
Austin Fairchild, a city council member in Terril, believes the project would have benefited the community.
“Our poverty rate is over 20%,” he said. “This project would have come with economic development, money, and more jobs to the area that would have been needed. I think we missed an opportunity here. I hope we appeal and win.”
Invenergy didn’t comment after the decision, but Senior Analyst Joe Crowley released a statement the next day that stated, “This recent decision does not reflect the overwhelming support for the community-founded Red Rock Wind Energy Center, including more than 240 landowners who are partnering with us to bring substantial economic investment and family-sustaining jobs to northwest Iowa.”
A lawyer for the company previously said millions of dollars were spent developing the project. County officials say the company has 30 days to appeal the decision in court.
Two other wind energy projects have been mentioned for the Iowa Great Lakes region, and Van Kleet says she will continue to fight against turbines in the Iowa Great Lakes area.
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