Locals voice concerns over county wind farm

More than 30 people attended the Tuesday meeting of the Marion County Commission to discuss their thoughts on placing another wind farm in the southern part of the county. Those who spoke in favor of a moratorium until more information is made available included Staci Janzen, Jeremy Loewen, Glenn Litke, Randy Eitzen, Larry Larsen, Collin Quiring, Charlie Loewen and Chase Gann. Speaking on behalf of Expedition Wind Turbines was Jesse Hopkins-Hoel with National Renewable Solutions. Almost 30 people attended Tuesday’s Marion County Commission meeting to voice concerns about the setbacks associated with wind turbines in the area and across Kansas.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, a setback “defines the minimum distance a turbine can be built from residential structures, property lines, roads, environmentally or historically sensitive areas, and other locations.”

Staci Janzen, who lives in Commission District 1 and owns property in District 3, said she believes the most important thing the commission can do is place a moratorium on wind farms until the state legislature has time to review setbacks.

“I am not against wind turbines,” she said, “but I am in favor of reasonable setbacks to protect rural residents.”

Clarifying an earlier report, no wind turbines are planned in the area south of U.S. Highway 50 and east of U.S. Highway 77 in the tallgrass prairie preservation area. In addition, Pat Pelstring, representing Expedition Wind Project, based in Wayzata, Minn., is urging the commission to avoid a moratorium, noting that many people in that area have already signed agreements. The group, he said, wants to get started by fall if at all possible.

A lot of landowners have already made a decision to participate in the project, Pelstring said at an earlier meeting, and in August 2018, Marion County Planning and Zoning issued two conditional use permits for temporary meteorological towers for Expedition Wind.

Others speaking on behalf of a moratorium brought up a variety of issues including House Bill 2273, potential health concerns and agricultural concerns, that included the impact on aerial crop spraying.

Another issue Janzen discussed was the potential decline in property values with the added turbines and noise created.

For Jeremy Loewen, the idea of preserving farms and farming practices for the next generation of farmers was important to him, as it was for others, including Randy Eitzen.

As a farmer in the southeast part of Marion County, Eitzen said he doesn’t normally speak out in this type of setting.

“But we need to take a good strong look at what people before me said. I really think you as commissioners really need to take a look at a majority of the people who signed up [for these wind turbine agreements] so far,” Eitzen said.

One of the problems Eitzen said he sees is that a majority of the people signing up are getting ready to retire or they are absentee landowners.

“If you [commissioners] look around at the crowd here today, it represents a fair amount of people, and I don’t see any living within the footprint of the proposed wind farm,” Eitzen added. “If someone is an absentee landlord, [the wind turbine contract] is a good deal for them, but the commissioners should give us the same sort of recourse, if the project does go through.”

In responding to why Eitzen said he is against wind turbines, he said it’s because he won’t be around much longer, but for Jeremy Loewen, who has four boys, there’s an emotional appeal.

“I just don’t want to see the younger generation having to go around a bunch of wind towers,” he said.

Larry Larsen, who lives in Peabody and has been a paramedic in Marion County for many years, said his biggest concern is with the decommissioning of the turbines and how the footings will end up being part of the landscape.

Larsen said he is also concerned about killing hawks and eagles as they fly under the blades.

“Having been a paramedic for 32 years and having substantial hearing loss because of the dual sirens on the ambulances at 75 to 80 decibels, I think we definitely need to wait for legislation [on the noise element],” he said.

Glen Litke, another Marion County resident, said the argument is subjective and that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

“We have a beautiful county,” he said, “and I appreciate seeing the hedgerows our forefathers put in, but then some might say the smell of hog is like money in the bank. To the guy that doesn’t raise hogs, though, that’s subjective.”

In recent days, McPherson and Hutchinson placed a moratorium on wind turbines in their counties, and many attending Tuesday asked the commission to consider the same until more information is released.

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