BUCYRUS – The proposed Black Fork Wind Farm in the northern reaches of both Crawford and Richland counties is stuck in a ditch after a Wednesday meeting of the Crawford County Commissioners.
Actually, it’s stuck trying to get into the ditch.
Representatives of Capital Power, the company developing the project, have asked commissioners for permission to bury power lines in nearly six miles of ditches along roads in both Vernon and Auburn Townships.
Doug Weisenauer, president of the commissioners, said permission is needed because Capital Power has not been given approval to run power lines through private farms to each of the 91 planned turbines. Since the ditches are public land, Weisenauer said the company hopes commissioners will be more lenient than some of the county’s farmers.
Capital Power might not have an answer from the county for several more weeks. The proposition found little support during Wednesday’s meeting.
“I don’t think they should be running their power line in our right-of-way,” said Commissioner Jenny Vermillion. “It’s a private company; it’s not a public utility and our people don’t benefit from it.”
Crawford County Engineer Mark Baker brought copies of decisions made after similar requests in Kansas, Michigan and Minnesota. The commissioners – along with Vernon Township Trustee Ted Muntis and Auburn Township Trustee Tim Marcum – looked over the paperwork to see how it might apply to the Capital Power request.
Commissioner Steve Reinhard said if Black Fork is ever allowed to use the county’s right-of-ways, then an initial fee should be charged to cover any potential future damage caused by the presence of the conduit.
A concern of those in attendance was that public right-of-ways are designed for public projects, and historically have only been crossed briefly by private projects. Vermillion noted that allowing one company to fully use the right-of-way would set a precedent letting all companies use the right-of-way.
“I’m in agreement,” Baker said. “It’s probably in the best interest of the county to not let private companies use our right-of-way.”
Weisenauer said it would be best to let Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall weigh in on the issue before commissioners make a final decision.
Muntis said he’s glad the commissioners are looking over the issue so judiciously.
“Personally, I think the wind turbines are a great idea if they can do even half of what they say they can do,” Muntis said. “I’m not talking against them, but I think they need to keep working it to get those power lines where they need to be without disturbing what we already know isn’t their territory.”
Commissioners are not sure if the topic will be discussed further.
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