At least 75 citizens attended the informational meeting on wind turbines and powerlines held at the Winter Building on August 15th.
During two hours, guests from Cherry County discussed recent activities regarding the proposed placement of wind turbines southwest of Kilgore, and the expected construction of the R-Project powerline that would go from near Sutherland to Thedford and to its north, and then eastward.
The primary speakers were associated with the newly established Preserve the Sandhills group that is opposed to wind turbines and powerline construction. “This is a fight to save something precious ... our sandhills,” said member Carolyn Semin, a resident of Kilgore. “We hope people will get involved.”
Significant in the presentation were the comments by Kevin Willert, now living at Kennedy. He conveyed the reality of wind turbine development as experienced during many years where he formerly lived in southwest Minnesota. The first turbines were built in 1979. He conveyed a litany of problems associated with roads, turbine flicker, turbines on fire and other personal experiences.
“The sandhills are a focus due to wide open spaces in regards to setback and sound regulations,” he said. “I can’t imagine what turbine placement would do to the sandhills,” indicating that he has “grave concerns” and there are “lots of potential issues.”
Speaker Craig Andresen, of Valentine, noted that construction of a transmission line would involve a corridor across the land, access roads necessary for construction and maintenance and a construction yard every ten miles where equipment and material would be placed and within the flight distance for a helicopter being used to install towers.
Another prominent concern subsequent to powerline construction is insurance. Property owners would need to purchase “industrial insurance” for the powerline structures on their land, in case there is any damage to the towers.
In Grant county, decisions need to be made based upon zoning regulations and input from the public, said Dan Vinton, a county commissioner present at the meeting. “My job is to represent what people want to do.” Wind turbines and large powerlines are new issues for the county, he said. “We need feedback from people in order to move this issue along.”
There are indications of additional powerline developments subsequent to the R-Project. There would be more powerline built to the westward of Thedford, which would extend through Hooker and Grant counties then onward to western Nebraska. If the line would go directly westward, it might traverse the Sandhills National Natural Landmark which is an area southward from Hyannis.
Additional routes that are known would extend along Highway 83 in southern Cherry county, and also along Highway 97, north of Mullen, according to information on the Preserve the Sandhills facebook page.
There are multiple easements filed in Cherry county records that would allow the placement of wind turbines south of the Snake River just east of Highway 61, at the western extent of the North Loup River and other nearby land parcels. Among these records is an indication that Board of Educational Lands and Funds property has an agreement for turbine placement on their public property.
There is no current transmission line that could transport any generated electricity to the power grid.
Among those at the meeting were commissioner Dan White, and state senator Al Davis.
The public meeting occurred because of efforts by Gary and Glenda Phipps, residents of Cherry county, north of Whitman. “We need more meetings to discuss and understand the issues and to inform more people,” Gary Phipps said. “A lot of people were surprised to learn about the plans for placing wind turbines and powerline construction.”
The Grant County zoning board is expected to discuss turbine and powerline issues at their meeting in early September, Vinton said.
By the way, the cookies were a superb treat and utterly delicious, and certainly were an expression of the hospitality of the hills.