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Citizens offer comments on transmission lines, substations for wind project

County residents voiced concerns about how the proposed Pleasant Valley Wind Farm might affect their health and property values, while others praised the project’s economic potential during a hearing Tuesday before the Mower County Board of Commissinoers.

The “scoping hearing” was designed to raise questions that developer Renewable Energy Systems Americas will answer in its assessment of the project’s environmental impact.

The county board is involved because commissioners last month agreed to be the permitting authority for the wind farm’s transmission lines and substations. State officials will regulate the actual wind turbines.

The Project

In addition to making comments, the hearing was a chance for the public to see a “road map” of the project, said Angie Knish, the county’s environmental services director.

The wind farm would have three substations to accept power from the turbines, each station on a 5.7-acre site. There would be 138 kV stations in Sargeant Township and Dexter Township. The third, in Pleasant Valley Township, would be a 345 kV station.

Three transmission lines — designated North, South and East — would route power from the substations out to the regional electrical grid. The preferred North route is about 6.5 miles long through Sargeant and Pleasant Valley townships. The alternative is 5.4 miles long through Sargeant Township. The longer route was chosen because developers couldn’t buy all the land needed along the shorter route.

The South transmission line route would be about seven miles long through Sargeant and Dexter townships. The alternative would be about the same length, but through Dexter and Pleasant Valley townships.

The preferred route and the alternative route for the 345 kV East line would both be about 0.7 miles long in Pleasant Valley Township.

Questions

About nine people attended the meeting and — aside from their support or opposition to the project — raised questions about the effects of the transmission lines.

Though he supports the project, Jim Gronseth of Sargeant Township said he’s concerned about the high number of electrical lines near his home.

“We feel that it could devalue the property, and it could be a health issue,” he said.

Sargeant Township resident Judy Knutson, who is not in favor of the project, voiced her concerns that the transmission lines will affect their health and the health of their livestock. She also fears it will hurt she and her husband’s goal of growing organic produce.

Along with questions about how the transmission lines effect health, Dexter Township Supervisor Matt Sherman asked how the lines will affect the electronics at his property — specifically wireless internet and cell phone and television reception.

Dexter Township Supervisor DuWayne Skov said he supports the transmission lines and the wind turbines because of the additional tax revenue the structures would create.

“It’s a very welcome addition to our treasury,” he said.

While he said he understands why some people may have reservations, Skov also said the project will bring paying jobs and people to the community.

Larry Sparks, chairman of the Sargeant Township Association, said that the transmission lines will have little affect on farmers or their land, and he echoed Skov’s support.

“We’d like to see it go through, and whatever we can do to help we’re willing to do,” Sparks said.

The public may submit comments to the Environmental Services office until 5 p.m. June 9. Registered professional reporter Ken Dick kept a record of the proceedings, which the board will review as they continue the permitting process of the transmission lines and substations. The county board will use the information gathered Tuesday to determine what topics will be on the environmental assessment on June 22.

On July 6, the board will accept or reject the environmental assessment. The board will later make a final decision about the assessment on Aug. 8.