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Patrick Springer, Published July 23 2009

Letter appeals turbine decision

Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, is asking the North Dakota Public Service Commission to reconsider its approval of several turbine locations for a wind farm near Luverne to accommodate concerns from neighbors.

In a letter sent last week, Mathern asked the commission to consider imposing longer setback requirements for four turbines located near a bed-and-breakfast as well as a dogsled operation.

Commissioners approved the project, which requires all turbines to be at least 1,400 feet – roughly a quarter-mile – from the nearest occupied dwelling.

Citing possible health concerns from chronic exposure to noise, low-frequency vibrations and a strobelike “flicker” effect, several landowners have asked for longer setbacks.

Mathern said Wednesday that he wrote the letter because the neighbors who want the reconsideration were worried they might lack legal standing to request an appeal.

“I also got the sense they felt a little intimidated,” he said.

Mary Ann and Jim Miller, who have 21 sled dogs and build dog sleds, have asked that three turbines be located a mile from their property.

The commission decided to move one turbine located near the Volden Farms Bed and Breakfast because patrons went there to enjoy the serenity of the countryside.

The 80-turbine project is being developed by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Fla. Mary Ann Miller said she and her husband hope to work out an agreement with the company.

“What we’re looking for is something that will work for us, the landowners, and the company,” she said, referring to neighboring landowners who will earn income from lease agreements for turbines on their property.

The Millers, owners of Prairie Bilt Sleds, have an alternative site plan that would locate several turbines farther from their property and the bed and breakfast.

“We’re not trying to take anything away from anybody,” she said.

Gerald and Connie Stokka of Cooperstown, N.D., also wrote to ask for a reconsideration of the wind farm’s turbine locations. They worry that adverse effects from the turbines could diminish their property values.

Commissioners Kevin Cramer, Tony Clark and Brian Kalk were not available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522