March 22, 2011

New Wind Works site located in flood plain area

by Paula Peterson, asst to editor, Altus Times, 22 March 2011

The Jackson County Commissioners held their regular meeting on Monday, March 21. Many of the attendees hoped David Eyerly of Wind Works would have been in attendance. Eyerly told the Altus Times on Friday that their company would be locating a new wind energy project in Jackson County. Eyerly also said that he would try to make it to Altus in time for the Commissioners’ meeting, but did not make it. He apparently mixed up his dates and spoke to Commissioner Cary Carrell after the meeting.

A couple of audience members said that when the project was to be built south of Altus, they were not thrilled that it would be in their back yards. They attended the commissioners’ meeting to raise questions, gain more information and learn any possible benefits the project may bring to the community.

County Assessor Gerald Sherill Jr. estimated that this project would have a market value of about $100 million. The taxes the county could receive on this project would be 12 percent of that, annually. Twelve million dollars could be a significant boost to the tax base to support county schools, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Sheriff’s Office, just to name a few.

Two active duty and three civilian representatives from Altus Air Force Base were in attendance to hear information on the wind energy project. One representative asked if there would be any county zoning on the project. Jackson County Safety/Emergency Management Director Jerry Gibson answered there would need to be flood plain permits because the area designated by Wind Works is in a flood plain (See map) under the new maps done by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These new maps are being contested by the county since they are based on possibly erroneous engineering data. The new maps show areas as being greater measurements below sea level that formerly indicated. A Special Resolution Panel (SRP) has been requested by Gibson to reconsider the accuracy of this new engineering. The last communication on this issue was received by FEMA on Jan. 14, according to Gibson.

Currently, according to Carrell, Wind Works would need to apply for flood plain permits for the construction. Then an engineering report would be conducted. The report would present information to help determine if the project would meet requirements for construction in a flood plain, and determine if the windmills would be high enough above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). It would also help assess whether the project would impact existing waterways or tend to increase any tendency for areas to flood. The commissioners and Gibson would consider this information before any approval could be given by the county.

Commissioner and Chairman Cary Carrell said “The Jackson County Commissioners will listen to all sides and gather information from all concerned parties on the project.”

Normal business was conducted. The minutes of the Monday, March 14 meeting were approved. There were no reports or officer’s reports. One purchase order for $300 was approved to purchase supplies for the Health Department.

Fire Chief J.R. Wheeler, and City of Altus Emergency Management Director Lloyd Colston joined Gibson in advising the commissioners on the possible extension the Burn Ban for Jackson County.

The commissioners approved Resolution 2011-13 to extend the burn ban another 30 days. (see separate Burn Ban story on page 1 for more information.)

There was no new business.

The Wind Works project was discussed during public participation.

There was no vendor participation

All claims were approved.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:14 a.m.

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