Garden Peninsula Wind Turbines, Part 1

A new type of farm will soon be built in the U.P. for the first time.

A wind farm is in the early stages of construction in Delta County on the Garden Peninsula.

The project has divided the area, as it’s attracted both vocal supporters and dedicated opposition.

ABC 10 News Now senior reporter Mike Hoey examines the project in part 1 of a series of reports.

Heritage Sustainable Energy of Traverse City will soon put up as many as 14 wind turbines on the garden peninsula.

Farmers in Garden and Fairbanks Townships are making some extra money from leases that Heritage has signed in order to use their property.

The two townships themselves will see extra income, in the form of property taxes.

Both townships’ supervisors support the turbine project.

Garden Township Supervisor Morgan Tatrow says once the project is completed, it should prevent the township from having to make budget cuts at the rate that has been needed the last few years.

At an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 per turbine per year, the wind energy project would mean up to $560,000 extra for the two communities.

Fairbanks Township Supervisor Ron Collins says a majority of peninsula residents support the project.

He says the opponents of the project are mainly residents who’ve moved to the Garden Peninsula in retirement and don’t want to look at turbines on other people’s property.

At least one portion of that assessment is accurate.

Cliff and Rosemary Stollings live in Garden.

Heritage offered them a lease, and they said ‘no’.

Cliff says they moved to Garden about eight years ago when he retired, and they moved there because they wanted a beautiful natural environment.

Opponents say having to look at the turbines isn’t the only issue.

The U.S. Department of the Interior opposes the project.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is part of Interior.

The agency has recommended that Heritage abandon the project or build it somewhere else.

The Garden Peninsula serves as a migration area for bald eagles, which are federally protected, as well as osprey and other birds.

Turbine blades may pose a risk to those birds.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has a guideline that wind turbines be placed at least 3 miles away from any Great Lakes shoreline.

Because the Garden Peninsula is less than 6 miles wide at its widest point, Lake Michigan or Big Bay de Noc is always within 3 miles in one direction or another.

That means the peninsula doesn’t meet the guideline.

The Fish and Wildlife service has opposed the project since 2007.

They’ve told Heritage this in writing several times since then, including earlier this month.

Project opponent Paul Comstock says he’s not sure how many people know that.

He says he hopes county officials know that, since the county is responsible for the zoning and permitting on the project.

Fish and Wildlife officials have declined our request for an interview.

Delta County zoning officials have yet to reply to a request we made to them.

Heritage Sustainable Energy project manager Rick Wilson says the company will come to a reasonable solution with Fish and Wildlife and should be sending more information out about that shortly.

Cliff Stollings believes Heritage is thumbing its nose at federal and state regulatory agencies.

He says the company is more willing to talk about the project’s possible effects on wildlife than the project’s effects on humans.

Cliff is worried about that, saying there are many potential health effects on nearby residents.

We’ll examine that claim in Part 2 tomorrow night.

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