United in oppositionBELLE CREEK TOWNSHIP -- Tom and Mary Gale sat on their front porch Monday and relished the silence they fear won't last much longer.
BELLE CREEK TOWNSHIP -- Tom and Mary Gale sat on their front porch Monday and relished the silence they fear won't last much longer.
The couple worry that two 400-foot wind turbines scheduled to be built on a nearby hill will be a noisy disruption that sullies their prized view and drives them away from the home they built six years ago.
"It's going to take away every reason we came out here," she said.
Like many other residents of central Goodhue County, Tom Gale, a licensed electrician, and Mary Gale, a stay-at-home mom, are closely involved with Goodhue Wind Truth, a loosely joined bloc that has spent two years fighting a wind developer's proposal to build 50 1.56 megawatt turbines across 32,000 acres of countryside.
They've written letters to state legislators and county commissioners. They've traveled to St. Paul to speak with state regulators. They've crowded into boardrooms for hours of hearings, sometimes extending their comments into the early hours of the morning.
Now, with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission set to hand down a decision on the proposed Goodhue Wind project a week from Thursday, the group is planning on one final trip to St. Paul to make their opposition clear to state regulators.
"There are going to be a lot of people there," predicted Mary Gale.
A 'motley crew'
Goodhue Wind Truth isn't a "group" per se. There is no formal membership. Prominent member and rural Goodhue resident Steve Groth describes it as a "motley crew" of blue-collar workers, farmers and professionals with one cohesive element: a collective desire to keep the Goodhue Wind project and others like it out of Goodhue County.
"We have a common goal," he said. "It's all of our rights being stolen from us."
People involved with the group have cited numerous health and economic concerns as the reason they virulently oppose the project. At public hearings, they have listed everything from concerns about the noise caused by spinning turbines to the effect of "stray voltage" on cattle.
Boiled down, however, they say their message is simple.
"People just don't want to live next to these turbines," said Marie McNamara, who, with husband Bruce, owns a small farm in Belle Creek Township.
The McNamaras farmers with deep roots in Belle Creek Township. Plat book entries of the area attest to the region's Irish Catholic heritage: the O'Neills, the Ryans, the O'Connors.
While McNamara says her family has always voted and paid attention to political issues, she and others have described their opposition to the project as a political awakening.
The thought of wind turbines covering the landscape has been the main driving force behind the movement against the project, she says.
"When you farm, you're a steward of the land," she said. "You want to know how things affect your farm."
'An information depot'
One defining feature of the movement against the Goodhue Wind project is that opponents seem to know where to find information. They know when and where meetings related to the project will be held. They know how to get in contact with local and state government officials.
As Belle Creek resident and information technology professional Melody Ryan explains, they're getting their information from goodhuewindtruth.com.
The website, built and maintained by Ryan, is billed as a one-stop location for Goodhue Wind opponents.
"It's an information depot," explains Ryan, who says she spends at least 15 hours per week keeping the site updated.
A dizzying array of links takes visitors to a variety of pages, including calls to action ("Make yourself be heard!"), information on meetings and contact information for government officials.
The site was born out of frustration with the perceived difficulty in obtaining information about the Goodhue Wind project, Ryan says. Opponents soon decided to build their own portal where they could post all the disparate information they had obtained to one convenient location.
People involved with the website have even posted original research, including Q and A's with candidates for public office and video shot on location at a wind farm in Fond Du Lac, Wis.
That documentation will continue even if the Goodhue Wind project garners state approval Oct. 21, Ryan said.
"We're going to keep posting as we watch what happens," she said.
Opposition to the project as a whole will likely carry on as well, Mary Gale said.
As she sat outside her home Monday, she said she would continue to speak out against the wind turbines even if they are standing on the hill across from her home.
"This fight is going to continue," she said.