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Adams County Board approves controversial wind farm proposal

HETTINGER -- Despite strong opinions for and against the project, both the Adams County Planning and Zoning Board and the Adams County Commission voted Monday to approve a proposed wind farm in Duck Creek and Holt townships.

The Planning and Zoning Board approved the controversial project by a six-to-one vote.

After a 10-minute break at the Adams County Courthouse, the County Commission convened and its three members voted unanimously to approve the project.

There was opposition to the proposed 75-tower Thunder Spirit Wind farm by Bill and Ellen Elders, who brought legal representation in addition to each addressing the board.

"And I know that the argument 'not in our backyard' is not a very powerful argument, but it will be in our backyard," Bill Elders said. "I could ask each one of you if you would like it -- I don't think any of you would."

Many more citizens spoke out for the project, citing the financial benefit to individuals and the county.

"We have areas around this community that continue to progress and if we don't do something, I foresee us just kind of fading away," Kim Markegard said. "I really hope you guys give this a lot of attention -- I know you are, and I am definitely in favor of this project."

The Elders expressed worry about the way the wind farm would change the view from their yard and the noise from the turbines.

"We're supposed to live with 45 decibels of sound, constantly," Ellen Elders said. "We can hear the trains unhooking in Hettinger when it's quiet. We can hear the noon whistle, we can hear the 10 o'clock whistle. Can you imagine what it's like to have 75 wind towers around your home, humming, when it's 45 decibels in our area?"

The damage to the viewscape also concerned Nancy Secrest.

"I would not have bought that property if those wind towers were there when we purchased our place," Secrest said. "That is not what I moved out into the country for."

Norris Erickson Sr. said that he and his family controls how their land is used. Not their neighbors.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's my land," Erickson said. "If they want to put turbines on it I'm not going to ask anybody."

Members of the board agreed.

"Anybody can go out in the country and buy ag land, they can put up homes, barns, grain facilities, anything that is legal on that land," board member Howard Nelson said. "I don't know how we can tell farmers that they can't use their land in a legal way."

Once in place, the projects disappear into the landscape like telephone poles, Norris Erickson Jr. said.

"The long and short of it is now they take off from there and go to Bismarck, most people come in and nobody really notices," he said. "When we drive to town, when we drive to Lemmon (S.D.), when we drive to Bowman, we don't say we went by 356 telephone poles -- we don't notice them anymore. They're here."

Norris Erickson Jr. called to area counties and cities where wind farms were located in or near to see how those communities were affected.

It was not the project itself, but rather the relative secretiveness that bothered two-year resident Lori Pagel, who worked with wind farms in Minnesota.

"It has been kept quiet and when something has been kept quiet, it raises questions in my mind," Pagel said. "I question what good -- other than the money that they say will be projected for the county -- what good does it bring to the Hettinger community."

Wind farms represent a positive change, said Anita Schmaltz, who grew up in Hettinger but now lives in Bismarck.

"I guess I'd rather see that than coming home and seeing a bunch of oil wells and smoke and smell and everything else," Schmaltz said. "Times change, life changes. They don't stay the same."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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