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  • Last modified 178 days ago (May 22, 2019)

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Land. It’s more than an investment to be tilled and toiled. For many, it’s the reason ancestors came here and the legacy left behind for descendants to steward.

Whether progeny of an old generation of settlers — or pioneers of a new generation, ascending from urban and suburban life to a more bucolic existence — people become rooted in their land.

Anything that threatens their connection to the largely unchanged and unchanging diorama that defines their lives is at minimum a symbolic call to arms.

But if you think this is an editorial about the dedicated warriors opposing a wind farm in southern Marion County, you’d be only half right.

It’s also about the equally dedicated warriors who, a bit more than 50 years ago, protested just as virulently as today’s homesteaders do about another big project.

A key difference is, if the first group hadn’t lost, you wouldn’t be reading this editorial. Our offices would be inundated by floodwaters because Marion Reservoir never would have been built.

Although generously compensated financially, those who gave up their land for the greater good should never be forgotten. We remember them today, as we did during the averted flooding of 1993 and as we do whenever rainfall almost as unprecedented as what set off historic 1951 flooding plagues our community.

The question is how we will remember wind farm protesters 50-some years from now. Will we think of them the way we did the 1960s reservoir protesters or the anti-landfill advocates of the 2000s, who appear to have fretted away one of the area’s best chances for economic development.

It’s no coincidence, perhaps, that the biggest supporters of the southern Marion County wind farm are those who will reap its financial rewards, and the biggest opponents are those nearby landowners who, through no fault of their own, had snouts not quite long enough to reach the monetary trough.

We can’t pretend to be wise enough to know whether providing wind energy will be as important 50 years from now as providing flood protection was 50 years ago.

What we can say is that just about the only people, pro or con, benefiting from the current impasse over the southern wind farm are people who hardly need the piles of money they are raking in — out-of-county lawyers.

A unique aspect of the current protest is how it has wended its way into our courtrooms.

Challenging a government action by petitioning officials, campaigning for their election or defeat, and trying the case in the court of public opinion is one thing.

Dragging it into an actual courtroom, where both sides are likely to spend more per minute on lawyers than a wind turbine could ever generate, seems un-American.

Or, perhaps, it’s all too American, given today’s overly litigious society, where anyone and everyone sues anyone and everyone for anything and everything.

County governmental is already reeling over spending thousands upon thousands in legal fees arising from such things as the financial shenanigans of the old operators of Hillsboro Community Hospital. Yet another lawsuit is as unwelcome as the Tuesday afternoon rainstorm that swept across Marion Reservoir’s watershed even as lake levels were approaching their maximum.

Barely a meeting goes by these days in which some government body doesn’t convene behind closed doors for conspiratorially secret sessions deemed legal only because of attorney-client privilege.

We fans of rural living like to pride ourselves on having more common sense than what exists inside Washington’s Beltway, where lawyers seem to outnumber everyone else and every presidential tweet, sensible or not, spawns some lawsuit.

Judicial remedies are part of our democracy, but they should be a final resort, after all else clearly has failed. With the wind farm project, the county still has not even considered granting a final conditional use permit. A lawsuit seems premature and more obstructionist that conductive to constructive debate.

Either way, those of us who are neither for nor against the wind farm are the ones who will end up paying for all the haggling over it.

Perhaps we need an alternative source of revenue to pay all these legal fees. Do you suppose a technology exists that could harness all the windiness from county commission meetings and turn it into quick cash?

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified May 22, 2019

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