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A blight on beautiful Wyo landscape

I returned to Wyoming last summer after a 10-month trip. Arriving home, I was surprised and dismayed to see that tall, futuristic-appearing windmills had popped up in various parts of the Cowboy State ...the idea of windmills has not received thorough analysis. Willy-nilly construction of windmills is filled with unintended consequences harmful to Wyoming and other states in the Rocky Mountain West.

A recent letter to the editor maligning windmills in southwestern Wyoming describes a problem that also exists in other parts of the Cowboy State. I returned to Wyoming last summer after a 10-month trip. Arriving home, I was surprised and dismayed to see that tall, futuristic-appearing windmills had popped up in various parts of the Cowboy State while I'd been away. Some were in otherwise beautiful view sheds.

Although America must exploit its energy resources, the idea of windmills has not received thorough analysis, especially with respect to safety, noise and aesthetics. Willy-nilly construction of windmills is filled with unintended consequences harmful to Wyoming and other states in the Rocky Mountain West. Our Cowboy State should not destroy its own beauty so that energy-hungry, liberal blue states like California can preserve their own majestic vistas. Wyoming should no longer allow itself to be treated like the energy industry equivalent of a banana republic or a commodity-rich colony.

One thing that brought me to Wyoming was its scenic beauty. I often stop on the highway between Lander and Muddy Gap just to admire the stunningly beautiful landscape. There are... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A recent letter to the editor maligning windmills in southwestern Wyoming describes a problem that also exists in other parts of the Cowboy State. I returned to Wyoming last summer after a 10-month trip. Arriving home, I was surprised and dismayed to see that tall, futuristic-appearing windmills had popped up in various parts of the Cowboy State while I'd been away. Some were in otherwise beautiful view sheds.

Although America must exploit its energy resources, the idea of windmills has not received thorough analysis, especially with respect to safety, noise and aesthetics. Willy-nilly construction of windmills is filled with unintended consequences harmful to Wyoming and other states in the Rocky Mountain West. Our Cowboy State should not destroy its own beauty so that energy-hungry, liberal blue states like California can preserve their own majestic vistas. Wyoming should no longer allow itself to be treated like the energy industry equivalent of a banana republic or a commodity-rich colony.

One thing that brought me to Wyoming was its scenic beauty. I often stop on the highway between Lander and Muddy Gap just to admire the stunningly beautiful landscape. There are no telephone poles, high transmission power lines or ugly buildings along that gorgeous stretch of road. And, best of all, there are no futuristic windmills to spoil the view sheds.

What you see instead in that vast expanse of Wyoming is precisely what existed at the time of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It is what Native Americans saw thousands of years ago. It also is what 19th century pioneers gazed upon as they headed west. Most importantly, it is what links 21st century Wyoming citizens to those predecessor peoples who trod that same land millennia ago.

The state of Wyoming spends millions of dollars to fight pollution. But pollution is more than just trash and chemicals in our water and air. There is also "visual pollution," a blight that travelers increasingly encounter as they journey through the Cowboy State. This type of pollution takes two particularly hideous forms: giant windmills, and then the high transmission power lines that carry electricity generated by those monstrous wind-driven devices.

Although these windmills and power lines have an economic benefit to Wyoming, they also carry costs, some of them not well understood. From coast to coast, lawsuits are alleging that windmills have spawned health, safety and aesthetic problems, as well as a drop in property values.

In Maine, for example, 17 families have filed suit, alleging "loss of peace, enjoyment and quality of life" (as well as diminished property values and the physical and emotional stress residents suffered) after a nearby wind farm came on line. One of the plaintiffs said that headaches and "frayed nerves" were an unwelcome by-product from the windmills, which (in addition to noise and vibration) can in cold climates throw off dangerous ice chunks.

Similar legal uproars are developing in Oregon, where state officials are now paying attention. One company cancelled plans for a wind farm near The Dalles in Oregon after outraged citizens complained that the windmills would encroach on homes, ruin breathtaking views of the Columbia River Gorge, and prove harmful to wildlife.

Among the dangers faced by nearby landowners is what Dr. Nina Pierpont of New York has dubbed "wind turbine syndrome," an ailment involving dizziness, memory loss and headaches. "This thing is not rare," Dr. Pierpont has said. Wyoming ranchers and farmers should think about these problems before they take the $6,000 per year currently offered to certain agricultural operations in North Dakota.

Closer to home, I have spent time looking to purchase mountain-view land in Colorado and Wyoming. But once I learn that a high transmission power line crosses the view shed, or is planned for it, I eliminate that parcel from consideration. Now that windmills are in the picture, I treat them the same way. This most recently happened with a Cheyenne city lot and some nearby ranchland along Horse Creek, both of which now have windmills within view.

I have talked to many other prospective purchasers of Wyoming acreage (most from out of state), and they have identical concerns. This should alarm current owners hoping to sell "view land" in the Cowboy State.

I don't know what to expect from last year's Wyoming Wind Symposium, but I hope for three things, in addition to the obvious regulation for health and safety issues as well as a requirement that wind farm developers compensate owners of nearby land whose view sheds are ruined or impaired.

First, I hope the state will regulate windmills and high transmission power lines so that they are no longer placed along highways or in mountain, river or lake view sheds. Properties of that latter nature are in short supply. But Wyoming has an abundance of windy prairie and desert which can well serve the needs of America's power industry.

Second, I hope the state will require that windmills in sensitive areas blend into the landscape, in much the same way that other jurisdictions have required cell phone towers in certain locations to be disguised as trees. I have seen such towers in other states, and you can't tell the cell tower from real trees. Even better designs (such as Dutch-style windmills) would be preferable to these tall, white monstrosities. TMA, Inc., a Cheyenne company, has less-intrusive windmills. Why not consider using them?

Third, I would like to see our state government publicize where windmills and high transmission lines are planned or permissible so that people who care about the issue can buy land elsewhere. There should be one well-advertised phone number or website where prospective purchasers can obtain the most current information.

When I think of Wyoming, I recall the last entry in the diary of Helen Mettler, a 15-year-old girl who died early in the last century. "God bless Wyoming," she wrote, "and keep it wild." Strict state regulation of windmills and power lines in our beautiful state will make sure Wyoming stays that way.

Richard J. Wall Jr. is a Cheyenne attorney.


Source: http://trib.com/news/opinio...

MAY 23 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/26449-a-blight-on-beautiful-wyo-landscape
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