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Iroquois zoning board backs turbine decommissioning plan

WATSEKA – A committee of the Iroquois County board will meet Friday (Dec. 9) to make a recommendation on a revised decomissioning plan for wind turbines.

The move comes after the county’s zoning board of appeals voted 5-1 this week to recommend the county board approve the plan.

The county board’s planning and zoning committee will meet at 9 a.m. Friday to make its own recommendation. The full board is expected to take a final vote on the revised ordinance at its meeting at 9 a.m. Dec. 13.

The decommissioning plan addresses a wind-farm operator’s responsibility to remove materials from a wind farm if the project is abandoned, and to place the ground back to workable conditions.

Wednesday’s two-hour public hearing was attended by more than 30 people, some of whom expressed concerns the revised plan was not enough to ensure the county is left with no financial responsibility, according to Debbie Wright, assistant zoning administrator.

Also, some residents of the Gilman area expressed their desire to see the county wait to approve the document until after a new county board member is appointed to fill a vacated board seat in their district – District 4 – which currently has only four members while the other four districts have five.

Zoning board member Wayne Wagner of rural Buckley said he voted in favor of the document because it appeared the county would be covered “as far as any financial liability or any financial costs for decommissioning.” He said the one-page document did not include every detail it could have, but it appears sufficient to protect the county.

“There were people there that were under the impression that the ordinance should cover all the details for decommissioning, and they wanted to see a longer version of the ordinance,” Wagner said. “The short version did allow for an agreement outside of the ordinance itself to cover the county for any financial responsibility for decommissioning. The agreement would cover all the details of what expenses might be incurred and who covers them and so forth.

“Some counties have like a 10-page document that covers all this. But what our state’s attorney was trying to do (in drafting the revised ordinance) is make the ordinance itself fairly simple and then cover a lot of the details in a separate agreement between the county and the wind company.”

But County board member Rod Copas, who represents District 4, said he believes the decommissioning plan should be more detailed.

“Some people brought up, and rightfully so, that if you have to negotiate every contract (with the wind farm operator) that possibly could come up, they’re going to bargain away. They’re going to ask for a little less (requirements) than what the last guy got. … Unless (the contracts are) uniform, what’s the purpose?”

Copas also said he thinks the zoning board and county board should wait to approve the document until District 4 has “equal representation” on the board. For the past several months, the county board’s chairman, Ron Schroeder, has refused to allow the board to vote on the only candidate to express interest in filling the vacated District 4 seat – John Shure of rural Buckley – because Shure has expressed a desire to see stricter regulations for wind farms.