Archive for Friday, February 7, 2003

Wind farm proposal splits rural residents

February 7, 2003


— To some, a wind farm that would generate millions of dollars for a cattle-ranching area hard-hit by a bad economy makes perfect sense.

To others, the sight of 262-foot-tall wind turbines on one of the few remaining stands of native tallgrass prairie in the world -- the last in North America -- borders on blasphemy.

Last week, the Butler County Commission approved what would become the state's second large-scale wind farm. The other was built in 2001 in Gray County near Montezuma.

Developers of the Elk River Windfarm foresee as many as 100 wind turbines harnessing the wind over 8,000 acres, creating an alternative energy source at a time of rising electric prices.

Opponents say the wind farm will destroy one of the wide-open views for which Kansas is known.

In Beaumont, a town of about 80 people three miles north of the project, residents disagree on how the giant rotors will affect their lives.

Deanna Choens, who has lived there for 20 years, doesn't want the turbines polluting the horizon.

"It's beautiful country," she said. "It's defacing it."

On the other hand, Lester Hansen, who has lived in Beaumont for three years, said he was happy about the money Elk River Windfarm LLC had promised to share with the community.

Assuming the project generates 100 megawatts of energy as planned, the company says it will contribute $1.75 million during its first 10 years to be shared among school districts, Butler County Community College and the county government.

"The Flint Hills are too beautiful to desecrate," said Marian Ruck Jackson of Rosalia. She hopes the project is stopped.

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