Clinton County officials temporarily halted the use of a county road by NextEra Energy Resources, the company preparing to build wind turbines in nearby DeKalb County.
The Clinton County Commissioners presented project crews for NextEra Energy Resources’s Osborn Wind Project with a cease and desist letter on Tuesday, August 3, temporarily putting a stop to activity on N.W. Platte Road west of Highway 33 between Osborn and Stewartsville. Despite the cease and desist, Clinton County Presiding Commissioner Wade L. Wilken, Jr. said NextEra’s crews returned to work shortly after.
The disagreement between the two sides hinges on the interpretation of the road’s ownership and maintenance. Clinton County maintains N.W. Platte Road while DeKalb County maintains N.E. Platte Road. NextEra contends their road use agreement with DeKalb County covers the entirety of Platte Road, both east and west of Highway 33, and any needed maintenance or repair that might result from its use.
Clinton County officials and NextEra had been working on the details of their own road haul agreement that – from the county’s perspective – would have allowed crews use of N.W. Platte Road. The two sides began discussions in early June. Bryan Garner, spokesperson for NextEra Energy Resources, told The Leader that prior to the cease and desist last Tuesday, Clinton County had failed to respond to a road use agreement that had been drafted after their meeting in June, despite requests from the company.
“NextEra Energy Resources is not currently doing anything on this portion of road that isn’t already allowed as part of the normal course of traffic for any citizen,” Garner said in a statement. “And in the event the road sustains any damage due to use by our vehicles, we will repair it – as provided for in the existing road agreement in place.
“We are going to continue to use the road while working with the Clinton County leadership to craft an agreement, but believe our use is already covered by the existing road use agreement.”
While the road, which sits on the county border, is maintained by Clinton County, the construction is actually taking place in DeKalb County. Two towers are planned for the area with two access points coming north off of N.W. Platte Road.
Commissioner Wilken said NextEra is relying on a state statute that stipulates border roads are co-maintained by the sharing counties, adding that the county feels this doesn’t permit NextEra to forgo talks with Clinton County.
“Well, if that is true,” Wilken said, “which we don’t believe it is because we take care of the northwest side, (DeKalb County) takes care of the northeast side; it evens out, we don’t share anything. Even if that were true, (NextEra) still should have been in negotiations with us, because even that tells them that that road is co-maintained by Clinton County. You should have someone from Clinton County, too, because we’re going to be incurring the extra cost of that road getting beat up, not DeKalb County.”
Wilken said that NextEra purportedly has an agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation not to use Highway 33, which he worries could mean even more traffic on N.W. Platte Road when crews need to reach N.W. Platte Road. He added that the county was unaware of NextEra’s timetable for the work on N.E. Platte.
The outcome of this disagreement could have further implications for the two sides, as NextEra has previously proposed building wind turbines in Clinton County as part of the Osborn project.
NextEra previously applied for a special use permit with Clinton County to construct towers in its north central reaches, but in December 2015, the Clinton County Planning and Zoning Department rejected the application as being incomplete. The planning and zoning commission went on to institute a moratorium on all wind energy applications in order to review possible amendments to their wind energy regulations. The zoning commission is currently gathering expert testimony and evidence in the matter, and is expected to propose amendments to the regulations before the moratorium expires this December.
Coincidentally, as part of that effort, the Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission met last Thursday, August 4, to receive expert testimony concerning traffic resulting from wind energy projects.
Platte County Public Works Director Greg Sager testified that afternoon as an expert witness for Concerned Citizens of Clinton and DeKalb Counties, the anti-turbine group pushing for stricter regulations in Clinton County. Sager said he has served as director for 11 years and has roughly 30 years of experience in road building and maintenance.
The bulk of Sager’s testimony on Thursday centered around two major projects in Platte County that could mirror potential wind turbines in Clinton County – the Iatan power plant and a Kansas City Power & Light transmission line.
Drawing from those two experiences, Sager spoke about the issue resulting from heavy road use – dust, rutting, washboarding, potholes, gravel displacement. He also mentioned instances where the ends of metal culverts had been crushed and said the county’s maintenance for both the roads and ditches went up, taking away from time in which the department had hoped to accomplish other goals.
He also talked about the need to perform these repairs as the damage happened, keeping the roads passable. Specifically mentioning KCP&L, he said most of the issues were either fixed by the company, or the county performed the work and the company helped with the costs.
Sager advocated the need for advance knowledge of intended haul routes and planned dust control measures. He also testified about right-of-way permits, which are required by Platte County to use roads for such projects. He suggested that Clinton County would be wise to consider establishing a similar permit.
Neil Jones, a senior project manager for Atwell Consulting, testified on behalf of NextEra’s side. He agreed with much of what Sager said when it came to such projects, heavy road use and the need for maintenance. He said most of those issues, including how the roads would be maintained, would be addressed in a road use agreement between the developer and the county.
Jones also testified that many of the concerns – including how the company would be liable for road damage and identification of roads to be used – are outlined in the county’s existing wind energy regulations. He added Concerned Citizen’s proposed amendment to require an escort from the county road department for all deliveries is excessive. Sager agreed to an extent, saying some larger deliveries could merit it, but not all.
The zoning commission also heard testimony and evidence concerning lighting regulations and wildlife impacts. The zoning commission has just two hearings left with which to hear testimony. The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, August 18, and includes the topics of property value protection, livestock operations and administration. An extra meeting – Thursday, August 24 – has been added for NextEra to present expert testimony about setbacks and noise.
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