Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My thoughts: Why we need a suspension of activity on the wind project

The following letter was first submitted to the Hays Daily News by Margo Apostolas, a citizen of the city of Hays and the county of Ellis in Kansas:

I’ve signed countless petitions in my life for various moratoriums against various things. So, I know a little about signing these things. Most of the time I signed because I wanted to do something. When I lived in Boulder, Colo., I was happy to back plans to halt growth that would surely destroy the magic of that most magical of college towns. I regularly signed them during the Vietnam War.

I recently signed one to put a moratorium in place regarding the industrial wind farm proposed in Ellis County.

A moratorium is a suspension of activity. Ellis County needs a suspension of activity on the industrial wind farm project. Most of the families who are fighting for their homesteads have only known of this project since March.

Most of the residents of Ellis County have only known of this since March. The folks who stand to gain from this have known since, well, you tell me.

The following are some random thoughts I’ve had on this controversy.

Doing the right thing: Let’s face the dilemma. We, who consider ourselves liberal thinkers, hate fossil fuel and love to embrace alternatives. Wind is a good alternative.

Here’s the conundrum: Ellis County, a growing county in western Kansas, is not the best choice for this project. It seems especially ill-conceived, placed in a corridor that links two of the most populated towns in that county, an area already on the path to exurbia.

The smell of money: This is that humorous saying about the feed lot which is intrusive in a way we don’t really like to talk about. At the very least — and I mean the very least — the industrial wind farm project is a visual intrusiveness that smells of money.

A few of your neighbors are about to realize some real cash and many more of your neighbors are about to see the property values of their homes plummet as a direct result.

Blank check: My plan for funding our schools in Hays? Place gigantic wind turbines within the boundaries of the city of Hays parks system and properties owned by USD 489. I’m certain the good folks on 33rd Street bordering 7 Hills Park would have no problem with that, right? Oh, and why not set one up on that big empty space next to Roosevelt Elementary School. What’s it called, Sunrise Park? Our kids could have the privilege of attending class right underneath these benign behemoths. I’m certain not a parent would lodge a complaint, right? Don’t forget Frontier Park or the “home where the buffalo roam” across from Old Fort Hays.

The possibilities are endless.

The reality of NIMBY: This is an acronym for “not in my back yard.” It has come to be associated with folks who only have their own interests at heart in a situation, even if the “greater good” is ever looming. But, I think those of us who live comfortably within the confines of the city limits of Hays should, in good conscience, give some thought how we would react if this had happened to our own families.

So let’s just do that now. Imagine you are living in a semi-rural environment. You worked hard for many years to buy a home that suits your family’s lifestyle: closer to nature, no traffic, sunsets, etc., but close enough to the city of Hays or Ellis to easily commute to work.

Then, sometime in March, you go to your mailbox and there awaits a letter that will literally change everything. An industrial wind farm is being considered right next door to your home! Imagine the dinner conversation, “What? How high is 400 feet?” Your fourth-grader does some research and says, “That’s higher than the Statue of Liberty!”

What to do? Well, in hindsight (everybody’s favorite perspective), I guess you call a real estate agent, because this train has left the station. Your neighbors (who own, through an intricate amalgamation of family connections, a stunning acreage of land) have arranged to have these 40-story turbines erected on their accumulated properties right next door to your home.

Here are some other topics I’ve considered: David and Goliath, Magic Beans, Fear and Loathing in Hays America, 6 degrees of separation (everyone’s related) — omigod, is this the Spanish aristocracy?

Anyway, this is all I have to say. I think it’s time to give this really momentous undertaking more thought.

The wind has been here forever and it’s not going away. A little while longer to sort things out with civility is not going to kill us.

Margo Apostolas
Hays, Kansas
May 2007

To Sign the Petition:
If you are an Ellis County, Kansas, resident and you wish to support a petition to stop this wind farm from being constructed next to Hays, Kansas, you can follow this link and leave your name, real address, and a single comment about your support of this petition. Click here now!

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