Wind farm meeting resistance

Commissioner Dennis DeWitt says that residents in the Pawnee area are seemingly not in favor of a proposed wind farm there. The company is currently leasing land for the project.

PAWNEE – The effort to build a wind farm in north Bee County continues as staff with Lincoln Clean Energy hope to meet soon with county officials.

While not formally requested, it is expected that the company will request a tax abatement from the county for the project.

Passage of that measure will be up to the residents there and the commissioner who represents them.

“I know two people that want to do this and live in the county,” Commissioner Dennis DeWitt told county leaders last week. “One of them is a large landowner. They more or less have been promised wind generators on their property.

“That would probably give them about $7,000 or $8,000 a year per wind turbine.

“The other one owns about 40 acres.

“Everybody else in the northern part of the county does not want these to go in. So if and when it comes to commissioners, we will make an appropriate decision.”

A letter from Eric Barnett, director of development with Lincoln, to landowners reads, “We are still diligently working with landowners on lease terms and various changes to the form.

“Once we have a bit more security that site control can be accomplished, I would like to meet with the county on this again to show a better project area and eventually a layout design.”

In the past, commissioners have approved abatements for such facilities.

In November 2017, county leaders approved a tax break for construction in Tynan that would still give the county about a million dollars extra over the next 10 years.

The approval then wasn’t unanimous. Commissioner Sammy Farias voted against that abatement saying construction would occur anyway. DeWitt voted against the forming of the investment zone but later in favor of the abatement.

Opposition to that project met no vocal public resistance.

It has been noted by birders here, and across the country, that these wind farms can disrupt flight patterns and kill birds.

Well-known wildlife photographer and birder Jimmy Jackson voiced his concern during a meeting prior to the Tynan abatement.

“The birds aren’t of much interest to a lot of people, but they are of interest to me,” he told commissioners during that 2017 meeting.

DeWitt, who owns property in the area where the proposed construction is to occur, supported these concerns, saying, “People are concerned with how it affects birds and bats.”

One study showed that bats will often die from internal hemorrhaging consistent with trauma from the sudden drop in air pressure produced by the turbines.

“It is not that they are running into the blades,” DeWitt said.

Full disclosure — DeWitt says that he was approached as a landowner to lease his land for the turbines.

“We did not accept their offer on my personal property in north Bee County,” DeWitt said. “I had a meeting with my family and kids, and they said, ‘Please do not do this.’”

He adds that while this is his personal opinion, he would do as the majority of the people in his precinct request regarding tax abatements.

“I have to represent what the people in north Bee County want,” he said. “Ninety percent do not want it to go in.”

It is that opposition by the residents which is setting this project apart from the Tynan area construction.

“The people in south Bee County wanted it,” he said, referring to his 2017 approving vote. “I represent the people, no matter my personal beliefs.”

His belief, he said, just coincides with the opinions he is hearing.

There is a geographic difference between the two areas. Southern Bee is primarily larger tracts of farm land where the north end is brush country.

“You have a different ecosystem in north Bee County than you do in south Bee County,” DeWitt said.

Centuries old trees fill the landscape, home to birds and providing shade for deer, turkeys and a variety of wildlife.

“North Bee County is primarily 15- to 150-acre tracts owned by people who once lived in Bee County and have moved back on family property or property they plan to retire on,” DeWitt said. “Up here, it is aesthetics, wildlife and tranquility.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at media@mySouTex.com.