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Health and Human Services board discusses wind farms

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news New Richmond, 54017
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The St. Croix County Health and Human Services Board heard residents' concerns and asked questions regarding health issues posed by a possible wind farm in the Town of Forest.

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The HHS board meeting Aug. 6 was once again filled with residents of the Town of Forest, looking for answers regarding the Highland Wind Farm project proposed by Emerging Energies of Wisconsin LLC.

Local resident Laverne Hoitomt said he had seen studies that show many animals in areas with wind farms have experienced health problems.

"I assume if animals are having health issues, human beings will have the same thing," Hoitomt said.

Wendy Kramer, public health officer for St. Croix County, summarized wind turbine health impact studies from Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon.

The studies discussed the possible health concerns that local Forest residents are concerned about, such as headaches, sleep deprivation and hearing loss caused by noise and shadow flicker from the turbines.

According to Kramer, the results of the studies showed insufficient or limited evidence regarding the health impacts of wind turbines, so the area remains gray.

One study's conclusion stated "gaps remain in our knowledge of the impact that wind energy may have on human health."

"I think there's good evidence on both sides," Kramer said.

Bill Rakocy from Emerging Energies and Brandon Simmons from Nordex, a wind turbine manufacturer, were also in attendance and attempted to answer many of the board and resident's concerns.

The board questioned Rakocy and Simmons as to why they want to build in such a populated and continuously growing area.

"We have to look at where the wind is in order to get the capacity factor," Rakocy said. "It just so happens that northeastern St. Croix County happens to be one of the best wind resources in the state."

The board also asked for clarification on issues such as the rule that requires them to build 1,250 feet from an existing residence, monetary compensation and the turbine's impacts on property value.

The board said there still seemed to be a lot of misinformation and questions remaining, so they encouraged Rakocy and Simmons to set up a time to meet with the Forest community.

The board did state they still have concerns about the health risks of the proposed wind farm. In April, they drafted a letter expressing these concerns, but they do not plan on taking further action on the matter at this time.

The Wisconsin Public Utilities Comission will make the final determination about the future of the Highland Wind Farm. Since the project is greater than 100 kilowatts in size, the state agency gets the final say.

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