Representatives from Apex Clean Energy were supposed to give a presentation Monday to the New Castle-Henry County Board of Aviation Commissioners (BoAC). Instead, board members got to look over a map that seems to indicate the energy company plans to extend the Flat Rock Wind project beyond the boundaries that have already been approved by county officials.
New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport Manager John Marlatt received the map about two weeks ago from a Henry County resident. Marlatt sent a copy of the map to BoAC president Maurie Goodwin. The map bore an Apex logo and was marked “Confidential.” It shows a “proposed expansion area” that reaches up to County Road 500 South, about a mile from the airport.
“It’s not a good thing,” Marlatt said. “From the airport’s perspective, it’s not a good thing at all. And I don’t think the (Federal Aviation Administration) will look on it fondly.”
Several years ago, the Flat Rock Wind farm was owned by a different company named Nordex. A Nordex representative spoke with BoAC members a number of times during that phase of the project. Since the proposed wind farm changed hands, the board has never formally met with with reps from Apex.
Commission board member Corey Murphy said Apex wants to have a conversation with the BoAC “in the very near future.”
Turbines on the Flat Rock Wind project are expected to reach 495 feet tall. Marlatt told the board that having structures that tall to the south of the airport would force planes to approach from the north on a “right-hand traffic pattern.”
“It impacts basically everything,” Marlatt said.
Henry County’s airport uses the FAA standard left-hand traffic pattern. Pilots using visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument approach minimums could unknowingly find themselves in a dangerous situation trying to land if the airport suddenly has an approach pattern that is different from other Indiana strips, Marlatt explained.
Marlatt also pointed out that the left-hand pattern has 70 to 75 percent of the current air traffic flying over northern Rush County. Under a right-hand approach, “100 percent of your traffic’s on the north side of the airport under VFR conditions. You move all your traffic towards town,” he said.
The board has been working on expanding the airport runway for more than four years. An important part of the process involved mapping obstacles in the area.
“If they add more obstacles, we’d have to start the process over,” said John Baer of the engineering firm Woolpert, which has been working with BoAC on the runway project.
Brenna Gunderson, the Apex senior development manager for the Flat Rock Wind project, said the “footprint” for the proposed wind farm does not extend north of I-70 in Henry County.
“The area north of I-70 shown on this map is within an airport setback and will not be used to site turbines,” Gunderson said.
“We remain hopeful that Flat Rock Wind can be built in both northern Rush and southern Henry County, as we would like to see both communities benefit from the project,” she added.
In other news, the BoAC appointed Tom Green to the board to fill a vacancy left by Brad Crowe. Crowe was appointed by New Castle Mayor Greg York, so the mayor chose sitting board member Christy York to take Crowe’s place.
Baer told the BoAC that a month of heavy rains have delayed progress on grading and drain construction at the runway. The end date for Phase 1 of the extension project is June 6, weather permitting. Baer hopes to at least have it done by the next board meeting.
The board approved plans Monday for Phase 2 of the project, which includes grading, draining and a preliminary paving design.
The New Castle-Henry County Board of Aviation Commissioners meets again at 5:30 p.m. June 27 in the community building, 100 S. Main St., New Castle.
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