About 10 days after AWA Goodhue Wind applied for a permit to replace some wetlands within the project footprint of its proposed wind farm, the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission decided it will recommend approval of the permit to the Goodhue County Board.
At a specially-scheduled meeting Friday night, commission members heard arguments from the developer explaining why replacement of the .225 acres of wetlands in various parts of Belle Creek and Minneola townships would be necessary to create access roads for the project.
“They were unavoidable because the access roads are linear, as are some of the wetlands,” Christy Brusven, attorney representing AWA Goodhue, explained.
AWA Goodhue paid to have the special meeting held in order to try to stick to its timeline of hoping to start construction on the project by the end of the year.
“To give us the best foot forward … we need to keep moving,” Brusven said.
During the public comment period at Friday’s meeting, a handful of citizens shared their concerns over having the process move too quickly, especially in regards to Goodhue County recently asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to reconsider the project site permit it approved in July.
If the PUC decides to alter aspects of the original permit, the location of wind turbines in the project could potentially change.
“I don’t think you know where your access roads are going to be if you don’t know where your turbines are going to be,” rural Zumbrota Township resident Kristi Rosenquist said, asking that the planning commission not make any decisions until the PUC comes back with its response to the reconsideration requests.
Still, the planning commission voted 6-1 to recommend the conditional use permit, with Commissioner Ron Allen objecting. The recommendation includes three conditions: that wetland impacts be replaced at a ratio of 2:1, that the developer complies with the Wetlands Technical Advisory Panel and that runoff management and future mitigation not affect any wetlands on non-participating properties.
The PAC will make its recommendation of approval to the Goodhue County Board in a meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 4.
County commissioners previously dealt with the wind case at their most recent board meeting Tuesday when they gave County Attorney Stephen Betcher approval to file an appeal – the next step up from reconsideration – of the PUC’s initial decision to issue a site permit.
Citizen groups Goodhue Wind Truth and Coalition for Sensible Siting, as well as Belle Creek Township, also opted to submit appeals.