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Local

Group amps up anti-wind effort

Landowners say company seeking new contracts

A group of landowners has hired a public relations firm for its effort to oppose planned wind farms in Lee, Bureau and Whiteside counties. 

The Informed Farmers Coalition is targeting the Walnut Ridge and Green River wind farms, saying it wants to educate farmers before they consider new contracts with Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy.

Last week, the group issued a news release drafted by PR Etc., which has offices in Rockford and Madison, Wis.

"The Informed Farmers Coalition has spent the last 3 years attempting to educate local citizens on the problems and challenges associated with wind turbine development," coalition spokesman Kendall Guither said in the release. "However, turbine developers continue to mislead the public about problems that continue to exist with wind development."

In December, Geronimo bought the Green River project from Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, near Walnut Ridge.

Mainstream got approval from Lee and Whiteside counties for turbines, while Bureau County's zoning board rejected the company's proposal. Walnut Ridge would be entirely in Bureau County.

In a brochure, the coalition says Geronimo is reaching out to landowners to sign new contracts. It doesn't say where Geronimo is making such efforts. Perhaps it is in Bureau County, where its rejected proposal called for 19 turbines.

Kris Donarski, Bureau County's zoning officer, who took a few days off, couldn't be reached for comment this week. A woman answering the zoning office's phone said no one else in the county could answer questions about the status of the two wind farms.

Messages left for Geronimo executives were not returned.

In Whiteside County, where nine turbines are planned for Green River, Stuart Richter, the county's zoning administrator, said he was unaware of any efforts to sign new contracts.

In summer 2012, the Whiteside County Board approved the Green River proposal, giving the wind farm owner 3 years to get building permits, which are contingent on the completion of a number of requirements, including the development of a decommissioning plan. That means the company has until mid-2015 to get the project going.

Geronimo, the brochure said, has yet to turn in decommissioning plans for Green River or Walnut Ridge. Such plans would guide the taking down of abandoned turbines.

With the expiration of a tax break for wind energy production, the chance that both Green River and Walnut Ridge will be abandoned or underused increases, according to the brochure.

Geronimo has said it hopes to start construction on Green River and Walnut Ridge by late this year or next.

The plan for 53 turbines for Green River in Lee County is mired in litigation. Residents in the neighborhood argue that the project would hurt their quality of life, creating noise and shadow flicker.

For more information

The Informed Farmers Coalition is at 104 Liberty St. in Walnut. For more information, email informedfarmers@yahoo.com or visit www.wind-watch.org.

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