An open letter to members of the Winnebago County Board

By Sally and Bill Hoff

Seward Township residents

Editor’s note: The first of the following two e-mails was sent to all members of the Winnebago county Board. The second e-mail was sent out to concerned citizens and repeats some of the first, but it really depicts the tenor and sadness of the wind farm issue, which is nothing more than a Greenwashing of an ordinance for the special interest of labor and the wind industry, with the citizens and environment dismissively cast aside.

At the county board’s Republican caucus on Monday night, Fred Wescott accused the representatives from Seward Township of being opposed to the proposed wind farm project because it was in our back yards. He scoffed at us, saying this was a NIMBY situation, and he didn’t care what we said because the project would bring jobs, and he would vote for it for that reason alone. Ted Biondo questioned the efficacy of wind power as a practical means of generating electricity, but even so he claimed he will support this proposal because of the jobs it could create. Such simplistic thinking is shameful.

Of course, we Seward Township residents are sounding the alarm about the wind farm project because it is in our back yards! We have to—the rest of the county does not seem to care or even know about this proposal that would permanently affect the human and wildlife residents of this area. This isn’t a question of aesthetics; it isn’t about having to look at gigantic industrial turbines dominating the landscape. It is about the health issues caused by these whirling, blinking, throbbing towers being in such close proximity to homes and livestock facilities. It is about the alteration of the good soil that produces such valuable crops. It is about the destruction of the safe migration paths for thousands of birds and bats, including the federally-endangered whooping cranes, whose visits here every spring and fall are highly publicized.

Several members of both caucuses had profound questions about the value of wind power-generating facilities in our county. They seem to understand that this new technology may bring with it more long-term problems than the short-term jobs it creates. It is our hope that they will be thinking long and hard about this matter before the vote on Thursday evening.

It will take courage on the part of each one of you to vote against this proposal, because you could be perceived as being anti-job growth instead of being intelligent questioners who are willing to take the long view. We fully acknowledge that jobs are needed in Winnebago County and that your financial situation is dire; you are under enormous pressure to find fixes for these situations. But wind farms are not the magic bullet that you may wish they were. The least you can do is try to protect the rest of the county from the impact they will have on Seward Township, and amend the ordinance to special-use permitting. These wind farms should be subject to review each and every time they are proposed because of the increased knowledge we gain from their effects with every tower built. The best you can do is vote against this bad zoning for Winnebago County.

Sent to:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

To concerned citizens

Bill, Peggy Whitney and I were pretty demoralized after our time with the caucuses last night. They were exceedingly careful about anything we had to say that might be construed as new testimony, so all we could do was reiterate a few points we made long ago at the ZBA. Bill tried to give them a page from Babcock and Brown’s web site, declaring their liquidation, and they said they could not take that. However, someone let slip that they had received a letter about that very topic that day.

Some of the Republicans (especially Fred Wescott) were outright rude to us, essentially saying it’s a done deal (because of jobs) and we were wasting our breath. The Democrats, led by George Anne Duckett, were much more respectful and actually asked us questions—some even questioned whether wind farms were a good idea at all.

A few comments of interest: Ted Biondo said that as an engineer, he could see that wind farms made no sense from an energy-producing standpoint, but we’d better not think he was on “our side”; he is voting for them because of the jobs created. Our local county board member said he agreed with us that landowners need more protection, but he doesn’t think Special Use allows for that in that the permits are per farm, not per tower. He is trying to write in notification clauses and even a legal defense fund per tower, funded by the developer (he called later to discuss this at length). Melvin Paris said he noted that setbacks are greater for wildlife/natural areas than for humans.

We were told that the environmental clauses were put back in after Navitas wanted them out, but there are amendments by John Sweeney to take them out again. We still have not seen the final draft of what the board members will be voting upon. I fear they will take the Register Star Wiser article as an endorsement for the watered-down environmental clauses and will vote guilt-free for the ordinance on Thursday. They basically laughed at our suggestion of a lawsuit last night, and now they will believe that we have even less teeth in our argument.

The real travesty in the text amendment and the blanket zoning it will allow is that no effective voice will be given to the people —and wildlife—that will have to live with these behemouths! They will suffer long-term pain every day for the sake of some short-sighted short-term gains!! Surely, a creative county board member could make it possible to avoid this?

See for the visual impact of wind farms.

From the October 21-27, 2009 issue

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