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Wind farm proposal to be reviewed


Officials say heavy trucks could damage rural roads

Saturday, August 5, 2006

By John Sharp
of the Journal Star

BENSON – Heavy truck loads rumbling into Woodford County and carrying the pieces that compose large wind turbines could damage rural roads, officials said Friday.

Because of this concern, the three townships affected by a proposed 79-turbine wind farm project northeast of Benson want to formally approve the project themselves before it moves forward.

This month, the township boards in Clayton, Greene and Panola will review a proposal by Navitas Energy, developers of the 160-megawatt operation.

“We’ve got concerns about damages caused to the roads by the multiple loads, the heavy loads, the wind farm requires,” County Engineer Dennis Bachman said. “We have to work through the issues and make sure that we have proper protection on the infrastructure that may be affected by this development.”

Township review comes at the same time the proposal has to be endorsed by Woodford County officials.

On Monday, the county’s conservation, planning and zoning committee will make a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals whether Navitas should be granted a special use permit to construct the wind farm. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Benson Junior High School.

Navitas officials had hoped the project would be approved before this month’s ZBA meeting. However, it now appears company officials will have to wait until the September meeting before the project can move forward.

If approved by the ZBA, it will go before the County Board for a final vote.

Wanda Davies, project developer with Navitas, said the overall construction time line, however, will not be impacted.

“The road agreement with the township road commissioners will take longer than we thought,” she said.

Davies said a company engineer already has reviewed Woodford County’s roads and found them to be acceptable for the heavy loads the project will bring.

She admits that unlike a previous wind farm project in Lee County, this is the first time Navitas has had to get township approval before moving forward.

Still, Davies is confident the company will get their plan OK’d. “There is no problem with the roads that isn’t fixable,” she said.

Bachman agrees and predicts there will be no major problem. “The actual agreement itself shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

When completed, the wind farm will feature 79 turbines that will tower about 400 feet, which is considerably higher than Peoria’s 29-story Twin Towers.

Woodford County officials estimate the towers will draw in an extra $1 million to $1.2 million in taxes, with a considerable portion of that going to Roanoke-Benson School District 60.

The county will assess the farm at 20 percent of market value, smaller than the 25 percent at which Lee County assesses its turbines. County Supervisor of Assessments Laurie Epkins said the Woodford assessment will be lower because the Benson turbines are larger and generate more megawatts, among other factors.