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Published October 12, 2009, 12:22 AM

Unmarked wind measurement towers pose danger to crop dusters

Wind measurement towers put up ahead of planned wind farm projects are drawing concerns from crop dusters in South Dakota who say they blend in with the landscape. Crop duster Brian Hauschild said the main problem with the towers is they have no markings.

By: Associated Press,

MILBANK, S.D. — Wind measurement towers put up ahead of planned wind farm projects are drawing concerns from crop dusters who say they blend in with the landscape.

Crop duster Brian Hauschild said the main problem with the towers is they have no markings.

Flying 140 mph at low altitudes in a small airplane carries many dangers, but the unmarked towers add a danger that could be eased by the markings or lighting, said Hauschild, president of the South Dakota Aviation Association.

Hauschild asked the Grant County Board of Commissioners to consider creating a requirement that the towers be ringed with colored markings to make them more visible.

“A lot of area sprayers are voicing the same concerns,” he said.

Hauschild said the wind measurement towers, which are generally white, are just a few inches in diameter and about 197 feet high. Structures more than 200 feet high or more are required to be marked or lighted for visibility by the Federal Aviation Administration, so for now it falls on local government to regulate the shorter towers.

“In the short term, we’re working on getting them marked so we can see them,” he said. “In the long-term, I’m talking to the FAA, but this isn’t something that will happen quickly.”

Hauschild said he has been as close as three-quarters of a mile from one of the towers and couldn’t see it and made a number of passes over a field recently before he noticed one of the towers nearby. Being able to move and set up the towers quickly also means they present something of a moving target.

He said his experience has been that wind power developers don’t want their competition to know exactly where they are working, so the poles are mainly left unmarked and development is just beginning.

The matter was sent to the Grant County zoning officer for consideration.

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