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OUR VIEW: Resistance to wind turbines unites southeast SD

File photo of a wind energy system. (Matt Gade / Republic)

There's no denying it's windy in South Dakota, but South Dakotans are denying wind turbines.

As Davison County wind farm opponents await a setback proposal from the county's Planning Commission, Lincoln County voters last week upheld a requirement that all turbines must be placed at least a half-mile from all habitable dwellings.

Lincoln County's vote comes one year after the Letcher Township established a one-mile setback, and 11 months after 47 people signed a statement to the S.D. Public Utilities Commission in opposition to another large wind energy project near Avon.

There's a commonality throughout each case in southeastern South Dakota: locals don't want wind turbines in their backyards.

Whether it's the lights, the sounds or other perceived health effects, it's growing clearer that South Dakotans settle into two camps when it comes to wind energy. Residents typically either have little to no opinion on wind turbines or they vehemently oppose them.

Following the Lincoln County vote, another tale in a long string of opposition to wind projects in the region, perhaps it's time the Davison County Planning Commission return to the table with a setback proposal in mind. And maybe — due to the impassioned opposition backed by through research — that setback should be fairly large.

When the commission was considering a proposed setback of 1,000 feet in May, it decided to absorb the public's comments to make an informed proposal at a later date. But locals have waited long enough.

As we wrote in an editorial shortly after the board's decision to conduct more research, the board acted valiantly. But rather than forcing the Planning Commission to make a difficult recommendation to the Davison County Commission, we suggest proposing a half-mile setback and somehow put it to a public vote.

Allowing the public a say on the matter during the next major election cycle would help the county determine whether the opposition to wind energy is a case of a noisy minority or if the few represent the many. It would also take the impossible task the Planning Commission has been given to make all parties happy out of its hands and place that task into the hands of the voters.

After years of debate, Lincoln County can finally end all wind energy talk. Now, more than one year after Davison County barred a 9- to 11-turbine project from entering county limits, Davison County is still talking about wind tower setbacks.

Wouldn't it be nice to simply let the people of Davison decide what they want and then move on? We think so, and we suspect Lincoln County residents are glad to put the vote behind them.

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