More than 60 concerned citizens packed into the Gothenburg Public Library on Monday, Feb. 27, to hear information on a proposed wind farm coming to Dawson County. Though the project does not place wind turbines near the community of Gothenburg, some citizens warn all Dawson County residents will be affected one way or another.

The construction site for the wind turbines currently being discussed is in the Eddyville/Sumner area, located along the northern border of Dawson County and stretching south. Two ag producers from that area, one with ties to the Gothenburg community, are spearheading an effort to gain more information from the company requesting the project, and to educate the public about what it all means.

Patrick Martin, nephew of Doug and Janice Viter, was one of the men presenting information in Gothenburg last week, and said that he and several others have been attending and closely watching the Dawson County Zoning Commission to see how they will respond to the proposal.

“Once these zoning regulations go into place, it is going to affect the whole county,” said Martin. “We want to make other areas of Dawson County aware of what’s going on, and if you have feelings about it one way or another that’s fine. But we need to start showing up at these zoning meetings and let your voice be heard.”

Presenting the majority of the information at the meeting was Matt McTygue. “About a year ago the wind company came in and started sneaking around bushes,” McTygue said. He shared that he was actually approached by the company and offered a lease contract for erecting towers on his land about a year ago. He did, however, look over the lease agreement before making the decision that it was not right for him.

Despite several rejections from area land owners, the company did find at least a couple who were interested in the proposal, and McTygue said late last summer two meteorological towers went up in the area, one very near his home. “I got on the horn with the county commissioner and he said he didn’t know anything about it, and gave me the number for the county zoning commissioner and he didn’t know anything about it, and gave me the number for the zoning administrator. This was a full day of phone calls, and I did finally find out that they had their permit and everything was legal.”

McTygue then questioned the zoning administrator about the protocol for the turbines and was told that the company would put together the plan for their project and bring it to the zoning board, and a public hearing would then be held. During the public hearing citizens had the opportunity to present their thoughts on the project before a recommendation is made to the County Commissioners who then decide whether or not to approve the project.

“In the meantime, some leases started getting registered at the courthouse, and some people started figuring out how big this was getting,” he said. “Around the first of November we gathered a group together to talk about what we were going to do about this.”

McTygue said they have been in contact with other counties in similar situations with a wind farm, and received some advice on what to do - including requesting an addendum to the zoning regulations for wind energy from the zoning board and a moratorium from the county board. Both were done.

“The Commissioners did issue a moratorium for a year, but that did not stop the project. All that did was stop them from coming into the courthouse and filing for their conditional use permit,” McTygue said.

He said one of the main objectives behind requesting the moratorium was to encourage the zoning board to take a close look at what he calls “cookie cutter regulations”, which the board has been doing. “The wind company has been at these meetings with their lawyers, and there have been people there for it and against it,” McTygue continued. “It’s a pretty controversial subject in our neck of the woods. Tonight we are just here to inform you of what’s going on.”

The current proposal starts at the Dawson/Buffalo county line and comes 19 miles west, ending just two miles west of Highway 21 between Lexington and Cozad. The planned project covers a large area, touching the Wood River Valley by Sumner and the Platte River Valley north of Lexington.

McTygue said there are currently 17 different leases registered at the courthouse. Of those 17, seven of them are land owners who do not live in Dawson County, and three do not even live in Nebraska.

“I am not here to argue for or against this project. I am here to tell you that renewable energy is a great thing, but it does come with a price.”

We will continue to follow this story as the zoning board and Board of Commissioners make decisions moving forward.