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By Drew Lawson
The Record-Times 

Blowing off steam

Community gathers for turbine meeting

 

Last updated 3/28/2024 at 10:39am

Drew Lawson

Community members gather at the Harrington Opera House for a community meeting regarding wind turbines, a controversial topic in Lincoln County current events. The packed Opera House meeting was held Tuesday, March 26.

HARRINGTON - Approximately 165 people packed the Opera House here Tuesday, March 26 for a community meeting concerning wind turbine projects that featured three speakers with axes to grind against the state and federal governments, wind and solar energy pushes and windmills.

The meeting, sponsored by the Lincoln County Cattlemen's Association and moderated by Edwall-based columnist and County Planning Commission Chair Sue Lani Madsen, was intended by Madsen to be an educational meeting.

"The biggest bias I have is I don't want this to tear the community apart," Madsen told the crowd. "That's the one part of this we can control."

Cattlemen's Association President Matt Schneider said until more facts are gathered, the Association hasn't formed an official stance on the three planned wind turbine projects by Portland-based Triple Oak Power and a joint venture of Omaha-based Tenaska and Toronto-based Cordelio Power.

The projects are planned north to northeast of Davenport, east to Reardan, south to Edwall and in the Harrington area.

Geologist and rancher David Boleneus was first to take the stage. Boleneus said he has health concerns surrounding proposed wind turbines and potential real estate value loss.

One of Boleneus's chief concerns stemmed from what he called infrasound and low-frequency noise potentially generated by turbines with adverse health effects, which are noises and frequencies undetectable to the human ear.

"To avoid this sound, distance is the only rational solution," Boleneus said.

He added that turbines should be set 7.5 to 15 miles away from residences to avoid these health concerns.

"Noise is a considerable worry in my mind," he said.

Boleneus concluded his presentation by voicing concerns with tax credits and subsidies offered to wind and solar companies.

His 45-minute presentation revealed Boleneus's strong opposition to wind turbine projects.

"This is really insidious," Boleneus said. "It doesn't seem right."

Lincoln County Commissioner Rob Coffman was next to take the microphone. Scheduled to speak on potential property tax and county budget impacts from wind turbine projects, Coffman began his speech by venting his frustrations with the state and federal government's push for wind and solar development despite frequent rural opposition.

"The state and federal governments have taken rights of counties away," Coffman said. "Don't waste your energy being angry at the developers...or your neighbors. Go after the climate energy agenda and vote the progressive agenda out of office."

He then voiced his frustrations with the state taxing system, which allows personal property to depreciate. Wind turbines are considered personal property and would therefore depreciate over a 20-year period.

However, the increase in property assessment brought by turbines, considered new construction, aren't limited to the annual 1% property tax lid. And as the turbine value depreciates, that tax burden could shift to other taxpayers in that taxing district.

Coffman proposed potential alternative solutions that, he admitted, would all require action at the state legislative level.

Potential alternatives include payment in lieu of taxes, where the developer would pay a fixed rate each year. Or, Coffman suggested, a community benefit agreement, also in lieu of standard property taxes.

"My question to the developers is, are you willing to help us advocate for tax reforms at the state level?" Coffman said.

9th Legislative District Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, was Tuesday's final speaker. She called wind and solar energy pushes from left-leaning governments "somewhat predatory" to local communities and leaves the power grid at risk.

"I can't imagine a world where people look back in 2050 and think this was a good idea," Dye said.

Dye urged opponents to wind turbine projects to be "well-organized" in voicing resistance to windmills in Lincoln County as a whole.

More turbine-related events are coming soon in Lincoln County. The Planning Commission hosted a public comment period related to the County's developing ordinance concerning wind and solar projects after press time Thursday, March 28.

Triple Oak Power is on the County Commissioner's regular agenda for a presentation at 11 a.m. Monday, April 1 in the County Courthouse basement.

And another Planning Commission meeting to further discuss the ordinance, which largely follows Whitman County's present ordinance, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, April 8 in the Public Works building in Davenport.

Author Bio

Drew Lawson, Editor

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Drew Lawson is the editor of the Davenport Times. He is a graduate of Eastern Washington University.

 

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