WATSEKA – The Iroquois County Board is not saying “no” to all future wind farms, just for the next six months.
Concerns raised at a recent Iroquois County Board meeting prompted the board to vote unanimously to implement a moratorium on wind-farm construction for the next six months – a measure designed to allow the board to do research and possibly amend the county’s ordinance governing wind farms before more come to the county.
The temporary ban will not delay projects that have already entered the permitting process or have had special-use permits approved, according to board members Jim McCray of Claytonville and Dan Pursley of Lake Iroquois.
Such projects include E.On Climate & Renewables’ Settler’s Trail Wind Farm in Stockland and Sheldon townships, Vision Energy’s K-4 Wind Farm in Milks Grove Township, as well as the 17 wind turbines proposed in Loda and Pigeon Grove townships that are part of E.On Climate & Renewables’ Pioneer Trail Wind Farm, which also encompasses Ford County. The board had already approved special-use permits for the first two projects and had received an application for the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm prior to the board’s Nov. 9 vote.
Pursley, who made the motion to approve the moratorium, stressed that the board took the measure not because it disagrees with wind-farm development, but because the board felt that it was best to look out for the county’s interests.
“We just want to make sure all our T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted,” Pursley said.
McCray also noted that the county was not anticipating during the next six months to receive additional special-use permit applications. As a result, he said, the moratorium should not delay any proposed projects, including E.On’s 200-megawatt wind farm near Martinton, a project that has yet to enter the permitting process.
McCray said the board wanted to investigate concerns voiced by Livingston County Board member Judy Campbell and a Stockland Township resident at a planning and zoning committee meeting on Nov. 5. Campbell spoke about wind tower applications in her county and the wind farms surrounding the county, while voicing concerns about the impact a surge in wind farms could have on rural America’s landscape and agricultural economy.
“One of our biggest concerns was overpopulation (of wind turbines),” McCray said. “No matter where you turn, there’s another wind tower. At what point is there too many?”
Concerns were also voiced about the decommissioning plan for wind turbines – and the subsequent costs the county may have to incur if it has to remove turbines in the incident a developer does not do so after they are no longer in operation.
McCray said that the existing $10,000 surety bond which is required to be paid by the company for each tower in the case of its removal by the county was raised to a $50,000. Zoning officer Gloria Schleef said State’s Attorney Jim Devine told her the $10,000 bond should be increased to at least $35,000 to make sure the bond would be enough to cover costs incurred by the county. Bureau County uses a $37,000 bond for each turbine for decommissioning, Schleef noted.
Meanwhile, McCray said the board plans to use the six-month moratorium to do such things as seek input from Martinton-area residents “to make sure they’re on board with what we’re doing” and to investigate the possibility of limiting the number of turbines in the county or per square mile.
The board also plans to possibly require companies to specify the exact number and locations of turbines for proposed wind farms when applying for special-use permits. Currently, companies can apply for permits while only providing an estimated range of the number of turbines to be constructed, and while providing locations that fall within a “footprint” of the proposed wind farm, McCray said.
“Some of the wind towers had applied for X amount of wind towers,” Pursley said, “and then when the final count came, there might be (more).”