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North Dakota program launched to aid landowners with wind energy complaints

A wind energy system. Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is launching a new program to help landowners resolve concerns related to wind energy development.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring announced Monday the creation of a wind energy restoration and reclamation oversight program, similar to an initiative developed in 2015 related to pipeline construction.

The program will allow a landowner or tenant who is dissatisfied by the response of a wind energy company related to reclamation of their property to work with a Department of Agriculture ombudsman.

The ombudsman can then evaluate the site, contact the wind company and work to resolve the issues in a timely manner.

Goehring said Monday the program fills a need for landowners at a time when more wind farms are likely to be developed in the state.

"It's meant to enhance communications, but it's also meant to remove that emotional aspect from it," Goehring said.

The North Dakota Legislature directed the department to create the program. It was developed in cooperation with the North Dakota Public Service Commission, which regulates wind farms.

Chairman Randy Christmann said it made sense for the ombudsman program to be within the Department of Agriculture because the pipeline program has worked well for landowners.

"I'm glad to see they're moving forward with it," Christmann said. "There's potentially a lot of wind farm construction in the next couple years here."

The Public Service Commission has occasionally received landowner complaints related to wind companies that fail to properly reconstruct fences or adequately restore roads that were used during construction, Christmann said.

If an ombudsman is unable to resolve a landowner's issue, the landowner could then bring a complaint to the Public Service Commission.

The program also aims to provide educational outreach to help landowners before they sign agreements with wind companies.

"We're trying to get out ahead of this to do more on the front end," Goehring said.

Landowners needing assistance can call 701-328-2231 or submit a request online at www.nd.gov/ndda/program/wind-energy-restoration-and-reclamation-oversigh....

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