Calumet County Board supervisors approved changes to the county's wind ordinance when they met last Tuesday, March 18.

Among the biggest changes to Chapter 79 of the county's ordinances is boosting the setback distance for wind turbines from the existing 1,000 feet to 1,800 feet.

Public participation at the meeting included residents from the New Holstein area speaking to the 1,800-foot setback requirement. Speakers said they felt citizens surrounding the farm property no longer had a voice. "Implications of not passing the ordinance will have self evident effects," one speaker said. The construction of wind turbines was described as "the most contentious issue" this county has faced in years.

Randy Jaeckels, general manager of New Holstein Utilities, spoke on behalf of Wisconsin Public Power, Inc. and the proposed five turbines within New Holstein's service territory. He addressed points about calls he has received over the past few weeks.

New Holstein project on hold

"At this point there is not going to be an abandonment of the project, it is just placed on hold because of county ordinances," he said. He further explained his position on the construction of the turbines. "If it's too restrictive (ordinances and setbacks) then it will be too impossible to proceed with," he said. He encouraged board members to vote against the more restrictive ordinances in an effort to encourage the construction of wind energy.

Jaeckels also mentioned turbines could not be built near the New Holstein Airport per Federal Aviation Administration restrictions. He also said he spoke with Chilton Mayor Bill Engler Jr. on the issue. "We want to be good neighbors," Jaeckels said. "Renewable energy needs to be part of the solution. I encourage supporting wind energy systems."

Engler addressed the board for the third time regarding how wind turbines could impact the City of Chilton. He said, "We stated affirmatively no wind turbines within a mile and a half of the city (about 8,000 feet)-you give us 1,000 feet. Isn't government supposed to work with each other?"

Engler added, "Power companies come here with money and a promise to help in the name of wind energy. They have a legal staff and threaten lawsuits. They set friends against friends. Do they have to be here? Why Calumet County? Are we really the windiest? Wind is along Lake Michigan. Why here? Money follows the area of least resistance. We need to stand up for citizens. We are elected for this, and I ask to support the advisory recommendations to support ordinance amendments," he said.

Several other speakers, most residents of Calumet County, used their allotted three minutes to publicly speak for and against wind turbine construction in the Calumet County areas. The Johnsburg project seated on the northern most portion of Fond Du Lac County was also mentioned. Everyone agreed that the day's votes would have a major impact on the future of the county.

Noise, setbacks and erosion

Of the 10 ordinances on the agenda pertaining to wind turbine energy, the three most talked about over the past few years are noise, setbacks and construction site erosion control. Prior to discussing the proposals-which started with an ad hoc committee and then were reviewed by the county's Planning and Zoning Committee-Chairman Merlin Gentz removed himself from the chair.Supervisor Bill Barribeau took the place of Gentz, and two other supervisors excused themselves from the votes.

In discussing the proposed noise ordinance, sound expert Rick James from E-Coustic Solutions was in attendance to answer questions regarding noise and decibel levels. Supervisor Alice Connors said, "The Public Service Commission has to take into account all of the ordinances and issues brought about. The (state) bill was delayed to give people the time to look at everything, pass ordinances to say 'yes we are concerned about noise and setbacks.' To do nothing would be ridiculous."

"No more time and energy on this," said Supervisor Christopher Krause. "Let's do something now." Gentz encouraged supervisors to study the Dodge County and Johnsburg projects. "I'm on the side of caution," he said. "The Public Service Commission is going to come in and what we do here makes no difference," said Supervisor Chester Dietzen about 138 turbines proposed for the area.

(Please see the March 27 issue of the Tri-County News for more on this story.)