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Battle over wind farm proposal takes strange turn

County commissioner opposed to wind farm has turbine on her property

Staff writer

Although a proposal to build a wind farm in the southern portion of the county has drawn strong opposition since August, not everyone stands against its construction.

Expedition Wind Farm, proposed by National Renewable Resources, would span from Florence to Aulne to north of Peabody. Opponents have contested its construction since August. The opponents, however, are not among the 41 landowners who have 81 contracts with NRS.

County commissioner Dianne Novak has publicly said she opposes the wind farm. A Diamond Vista Wind Farm tower stands on the Tampa property Novak and her husband, Kelly Novak, share. Dianne Novak’s signature appears on the lease on file at the register of deeds’ office. Her signature signifies she agrees to “waive and release her marital interest in the property … and consents to the disposition of the property by her spouse as the lessor under this lease.”

Novak did not return a call seeking comment.

Opponents have been so vocal the issue has come to the attention of such organizations as Cooperative Grain and Supply, which sent a letter to its customers asking them to treat one another with respect.

“The fervor seems to have almost reached a feverish pitch,” the letter from board chairman Kevin Suderman states. “We as a board of directors realize that these can be emotional and raw for those both for and against. With that in mind, I, as chairman of the board of directors, want everyone to know that while we individually as board members have our own opinions regarding wind energy, we also believe that all of our customers deserve respect for their opinion and therefore Cooperative Grain and Supply will remain neutral on the current proposed project.”

A contention among opponents is that wind towers have a bad effect on cattle.

Tampa farmer David Mueller, who has two Diamond Vista Wind Farm turbines on the property where he raises cattle, said the towers don’t affect his cattle.

“There is absolutely no impact on cattle,” Mueller said. “The only impact on cattle is that on a hot day they will line up in the shade, just like the shade of a tree. They go right up to them just like any other thing in the pasture. Sound does not affect them, motion does not affect them, it’s just like having a tree in the pasture.”

Mueller, who also serves as a liaison between the Diamond Vista Wind Farm and residents in its area, said construction of the wind farm has led to improved roads.

Lease agreements with Diamond Vista have been a boon for landowners lucky enough to get them, Mueller said.

“Even though it’s tough ag times right now, I’ve had four people tell me they would not have made their land payments without the revenue from the wind farm,” he said. “A lot of us up here are very happy.”

An economic impact study by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University predicts the proposed wind farm’s total economic impact on Marion County would be $143 million. Of that, $7 million would benefit the private sector during the construction phase; $98,689 would benefit the public sector during the construction phase; $105 million would benefit the private sector during the 30-year operational phase; and $30.5 million would benefit the public sector during the operational stage.

According to the report, Marion County’s gross regional product is $346 million. Of that, $20.2 million comes from agriculture and forestry industries; $19.6 million comes from education employment and payroll; $11.7 million comes from local government employment and payroll; $10.9 million comes from wholesale trade; $9.9 million comes from nursing homes and community care facilities; $7.4 million comes from truck trailer manufacturing; $6.6 million comes from higher learning; $6.5 million comes from ranching, farming, and feedlots; $5.5 million comes from truck transportation; and $4.8 million comes from oilseed farming.

“Businesses initially benefiting from the direct effects will subsequently increase spending at other local businesses,” the report states. “The indirect effect is a measure of this increase in business-to-business activity. Induced effects are the results of increased personal income resulting from both the direct and indirect effects. Businesses that experience increased revenue from the direct and indirect effects will then increase payroll expenditures by hiring more employees, raising salaries, or increasing payroll hours. Households will then increase spending at local businesses.”

Additionally, the report estimates $21 million in construction payroll and $7.1 million in economic impact to the private sector during the construction phase.

Once the wind farm becomes operational, payroll is estimated at $27.8 million; land lease payments are estimated at $64.2 million; payments in lieu of taxes to the county are estimated at $2.4; property taxes are estimated at $16.8 million; payments to schools are estimated at $1.2 million; taxes to school districts are estimated at $5.6 million; and state, county, and sales tax payments are estimated at $1.05 million.

Last modified May 16, 2019

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