NEAR VALMEHYER, IL - A big controversy is brewing in and around the small town of Valmeyer, Illinois in Monroe County, and it`s all about using wind turbines for electricity.
A developer wants to put up a wind farm but residents are fighting back saying not in my backyard!
“It`s just our little piece of heaven,” said Joann Fricke about the home that she and her husband Mike live in along the bluffs near Valmeyer.
They have 120 acres, much of it is part of nature preserve.
They retired to the home 11 years ago.
The Fricke`s love the lush landscape, breathtaking views, and wonderful wildlife.
“It`s turned into a way of life,” said Mike Fricke.
But the Fricke`s say their paradise is being threatened by plans to build a wind farm in the area.
Developer Joe Koppeis wants to put up about 25 wind turbines along the bluffs south of Valmeyer.
The turbines would be 600 feet tall, the largest in Illinois.
As it stands now, the Fricke`s say the property where the wind farm could start is only about 2,000 feet from their property line.
The Fricke`s and others have signs up protesting the project.
Mike and Joann are worried about everything from looking at the wind farm to its potential environmental impact on wildlife and the land.
“We`re very opposed to it and just can`t believe that this is the place for a wind farm. The beautiful bluffs here would be scarred with these big, ugly, tall wind turbines,” said Joann Fricke.
“This is a very sensitive area, environmentally, and I think this will have a big impact on it.
You`re changing a rural, agricultural area into an industrial area. If you live right next to a turbine you might not be able to sell that house,” added Mike Fricke.
“I think it`s something that could do a lot of good for a lot of years,” said Koppeis about the project.
Koppeis says the turbines would go up in farm fields that he would lease from farmers.
He already has two test sites running for things like wind speeds.
Koppeis concedes people would see the turbines.
But he calls it progress, saying the wind farm would provide clean energy and significant tax revenue.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and they`re going to have their opinion. I can say that all the environmental concerns-there are all kinds of rules and regulations and laws that we have to follow and we will meet or exceed those requirements. We want to be good neighbors too,” said Koppeis.
Koppeis has developed many other projects in the Monroe County area including Rock City, an industrial development in Valmeyer that is actually underground.
“I don`t want to do anything that`s not good for southern Illinois. I`ve got everything I have invested in southern Illinois,” explained Koppeis.
An Illinois Department of Natural Resources report lays out 19 areas of concern.
The very first one, possibly finding a new site because of the unstable ground beneath the surface.
Other concerns point to potential hazards for wildlife including Bald Eagles.
The report also talks about the wind farm going up across some 15,000 acres.
But Koppeis says it will be much smaller, less than 100 acres total with the turbines on about 10 acres.
“This is the hot button issue right now”' said Mike Fausz, the Monroe County Zoning Administrator.
He says things are in a holding pattern until Koppeis files a formal application to the county.
He says county leaders are going to have a lot to consider.
“They`re going to have to take into account how does this meet our ordinance, how are they able to comply with the Department of Natural Resources recommendations and what are the residents’ concerns,” said Fausz.
“I want them to put it somewhere else. The bluff corridor is
Just not the right place for it,” said Fricke.
Koppeis plans to submit a formal application to Monroe County officials by the spring of next year.
Then a series of meetings will take place before anything becomes a reality.
Koppeis hopes to have the wind farm up and running in about two and a half years.