It’s too bad the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service couldn’t be a little more forceful with its recent announcement about the placement of wind turbines near the Great Lakes coastline. That would have made things a lot easier for the Huron County Board of Commissioners as it tries to update its wind energy ordinance.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said it is “confident” that three miles from the Lake Huron shoreline is a good distance to follow when it comes to setbacks for wind turbines. That was it. It was a recommendation.
So now Huron County commissioners are left to do want they want.
To steal a line from “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, two miles good, three miles better.
Huron County has certainly done its share to contribute to the state’s wind energy demands. We have far more turbines than any other county in the state.
Some of these turbines went up early in the game, when everything there was to know about wind turbines was yet to be known. We also were probably the first to hear complaints about noise, vibration, flicker. You name it, we’ve probably had it.
We have said before that Huron County, because of its huge investment in wind energy, should be leading the way in wind turbine expertise. We should continue to do the most research, fund the most studies and have the greatest understanding of effects caused by hundreds of turbines on our land.
If that means calling for a moratorium on new wind projects, until the county can come up with more answers, then that is probably the best way to go.
The county is going to receive thousands, no, make that millions of dollars of benefit from wind energy. It should be investing a tiny fraction of its budget in coming up with the best answers for residents, farmers and environmentalists.
There are questions that need to be asked and answered so that decades from now our descendants can look back at our time and see the wisdom of this era. What are the most prudent setback distances? Are a significant number of bats and birds at risk? Are they eagles, or sparrows?
Yes, it would have been nice if the latest guideline by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was more helpful to developers in Huron County. But it was not.
However, that study does not preclude local officials from their duty to come up with the many answers needed to ensure long-lasting wind energy decisions are the right decisions.