PRINCETON – Now that the Bureau County Board has given its final say to allow the construction of the Walnut Ridge Wind Energy Project, many may be wondering about the stipulations and conditions the project will have to follow during its construction and operation.
At the Tuesday, Jan. 12, regular meeting, the board approved 12 conditions and stipulations the project must follow.
According to Bureau County Zoning Officer Kris Donarski, 11 of the conditions were recommended by the Bureau County Regional Planning Commission. She said the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) did not place any stipulations on the project because they recommended denial of all the permits.
Donarski said the ZBA denied the permits on findings the establishment, operations and maintenance of Walnut Ridge would be a detriment to or endanger the health, safety, moral comfort or general welfare of the residents. Also, it would be injurious to the enjoyment of those living in the footprint of the project and would impact property values.
The 12th stipulation was added on during Tuesday’s meeting after board member Tom Dobrich of DePue brought up the concerns from residents who spoke during public comment period about the taxing law for turbines.
Residents who opposed the project talked about how the law that addresses how turbines are taxed as real estate is supposed to expire later this year. Bureau County State’s Attorney Geno Caffarini said it was stated in arguments during the ZBA hearings that when the law expiration kicks in, the turbines would no longer be considered real property.
With this concern, the board asked Caffarini to draw up a 12th stipulation during the meeting. The new stipulation reads: “The applicant shall pay property taxes of no less than the amount provided for in the current state law establishing the assess value of WTGs (wind turbine generators) even if such state law expires.”
The board unanimously approved the stipulation, and it was agreed upon by BHE Renewables Thomas Budler during Tuesday’s meeting.
What are other conditions for Walnut Ridge?
1. The project shall be constructed as set forth in the application filed on Oct. 27, 2014. Walnut Ridge may install a wind turbine within 100 feet on the location identified in the application as long as the final location of the generator complies with all requirements of the Bureau County zoning ordinance.
2. During construction and operation of the project, Walnut Ridge must comply with the county’s zoning ordinance including conducting all post construction requirements such as a noise study, shadow flicker study and migratory bird monitoring program.
3. The project shall comply with the decommissioning and site restoration plan agreement.
4. The project shall comply with the county roads agreement.
5. Walnut Ridge must implement a complaint resolution plan for receiving and responding to complaints made by the public related to the project.
6. Walnut Ridge must contact appropriate farm agencies if access roads or turbine locations are located on practices under a conservation contract.
7. All conservation practices that are damaged by turbines, substations, operations and maintenance buildings, access road constructions, underground transmission cable installation and heavy equipment must be restored to pre-construction conditions using original design specifications and vegetative cover.
8. Walnut Ridge must replace any damage or destroyed tile with the same size tile to the same depth and grade as it was pre-construction. The project must also re-route tile of the same size, depth and grade that interferes with any turbines, substations or maintenance buildings.
9. The project must follow NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services) standards when constructing roadways through or parallel to waterways for filter strips.
10. Only three wind turbine generators listed in the petition shall be installed by Walnut Ridge. Any upgraded versions of those turbines shall must go through the conditional use process as new applications.
11. Walnut Ridge must limit shadow flicker to no more than 30 hours-per-year at any occupant residence.
Board has no issue with decommissioning and restoration site agreement
On Tuesday, the board also unanimously approved the decommissioning and restoration site agreement plan through a voice vote, with board member Robert Albrecht of Ohio abstaining from the vote.
The vote came after Dobrich questioned the concerns many have about the declining value for scrap metal and how that will effect the amount of money the county will receive when it comes time to decommission the project.
Caffarini confirmed the agreement stated the issue would be revisited every five years to ensure the county would get the proper price figure adjustment.
“The amount under the plan should be reviewed every five years for the purpose of readjusting or recalculating decommissioning costs if necessary during the life of the project,” he stated from the agreement.
He added the price would never be less than $70,325 per wind turbine generator.