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Wind farm hearing approaches

The final word on a proposed 41-turbine wind farm may be close at hand.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin will conduct hearings about the project on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 14-15, in Madison.

The PSC has already conducted hearings on the matter and rejected the proposal, due to concerns that the turbines may not meet state-established nighttime noise standards. The agency has since agreed to reconsider the matter, with developers expected to argue that noise levels can be managed by limiting the turbine operation in high wind situations.

Highland Wind Farm, LLC has applied for permission to construct a 102.5-megawatt electric generation facility in the Town of Forest. A substation in the Town of Cylon would also be constructed to collect the power generated by the turbines.

The Town of Forest and many of its residents have objected to the proposal, noting a number of health and safety concerns. Three families living near a wind farm in Shirley, Wis., have previously testified that they have abandoned their residences due to, what they claim, are the negative impacts of operating turbines.

Still other residents claim the wind farm would boost the local economy, thanks to rental agreements with landowners and annual payments to the municipality and county. According to estimates from the developer, over the next 30 years the wind farm would provide $4.8 million in revenue to the Town of Forest, and more than $6.8 million to St. Croix County.

Some have testified that they also back the project because renewable energy sources would help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

As the next hearing approaches, Highland supporters and the proposed project's detractors are trying to rally the troops for one last push.

An email was sent to Highland supporters last week, asking for people to attend the upcoming hearings in Madison or to submit favorable written testimony before Aug. 13.

On the other side of the issue, the Town of Forest will provide bus transportation for those who wish to attend the hearings. According to information released last week, a bus will leave Forest Town Hall at about 4 a.m. each day of the hearing and return to Forest between 9 and 10:30 p.m. each day.

Residents may attend one day or both days. It is possible that the hearings will go beyond the two days, according to town officials.

Additional details about the bus transportation, including minimal costs, can be obtained by emailing Town Clerk Marilyn Benson at or Town Chairman Jaime Junker at

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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