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Turbine-centric public comments made at meeting

DAVENPORT - Company representatives, landowners, pro-turbine speakers and anti-turbine speakers all made public comments at the Lincoln County Planning Commission's regular meeting at the Fairgrounds Thursday, March 28.

The comments were intended to be made in response to the county updating its zoning code to include chapters related to wind and solar development. The Commission, which consists of Sue Lani Madsen, James Johnson, Margie Hall and Keith Nelson, is currently working on ratifying a final draft to present to the County for approval and intentionally didn't respond to any comments at the meeting.

Among those in attendance at the public hearing were representatives from Tenaska, Cordelio and Triple Oak Power, the companies seeking to construct three wind turbine projects in the Davenport, Mill Canyon, Reardan, Edwall and Harrington areas.

Tenaska/Cordelio representatives didn't give spoken public comment. Triple Oak Power reps took a different approach, being the first to speak.

Senior Development Director Jen Bradford said the company supports the county's decision for permitting and recommended a setback of 1.1 times the height of a turbine, which she said is adequate for setbacks.

"The landowner could waive the setback if they wanted," Bradford said.

She also said the company supports setbacks from public roads. Regarding aviation and wildlife concerns, she said the company recommends the county follow guidelines from the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Three straight opponents to turbine construction followed Bradford's comments.

First was Alyson Williams, who said her chief concerns relate to aerial firefighting efforts potentially being hindered by the presence of windmills.

"Does it create a safe fly zone?" Williams questioned. "I haven't gotten a clear answer. Will a plane be able to save my house if a turbine is a quarter mile away?"

She said the land across the road from her residence has been contracted with a turbine company.

Williams also questioned how volunteer fire departments will be trained to fight possible fires in proximity to turbines, and who pays for that training.

Additionally, Williams voiced concerns with LifeFlight and AirLift Northwest medical helicopter service impacts and impacts on county roads, questioning how turbine blades will fit on thin, curved gravel roads.

Diane DeWeese of Sprague said she's concerned about possible visual and auditory health impacts from turbines. She also questioned how turbines could fit around a 90-degree turn on a county road and wondered if the turbine projects would "set a precedent for the county to be open to other developments."

Carol Paul of Edwall said she felt that many of the questions posed at company-hosted community meetings were left unanswered.

"The response was often, 'we'll have to study that,'" Paul said.

Paul also voiced concerns with turbine impacts on wildlife and livestock.

John Zeimantz of Davenport, who has signed a lease with Triple Oak Power, voiced his displeasure with Madsen's presence as Chair of the Planning Commission.

Madsen has been vocal about her opposition to turbine projects and is a moderator of the 686-member Facebook group, "Save the Lincoln County Skyline-Industrial Wind Truths and Education." She also organized and moderated a community meeting about turbines held in Harrington Tuesday, March 26.

"I went to that meeting, and it was not informational," Zeimantz said. "It sounded like supposition and hysteria...the Commission (members) shouldn't have preconceived notions. I have questions about the credibility of the Planning Commission."

Erich Hein of Davenport kept his comments brief, voicing his concern with "1% of the county population determining this." He said he wants to see setbacks set further back than the proposed quarter mile.

Jamie Mitchell of Hawk Creek said he's "totally opposed" to turbines. He also voiced firefighting concerns.

"In the Angel Springs Fire, my house was saved by airdrops," Mitchell said. "I'm worried tankers won't be able to fly."

Michelle Overmyer of Davenport said she understands why farmers are leasing their land, as the monetary gains are promised and the cost of running a farm is steep. But she said that payout isn't "worth what the rest of the rural community will go through."

"My neighbor will gain a huge loss," Overmyer said. "Is all that worth giving up so we can make money? You've got to think about your neighbor."

Mark Sheffels of Wilbur, who farms in Davenport and has signed land to turbine development, also noted that current return on farmland is "not good."

"I'd like to see ownership stay in rural counties," Sheffels said.

The Planning Commission took no action at the meeting. Another Planning Commission meeting is planned for 10 a.m. Monday, April 8 at the Public Works Meeting off State Highway 25 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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