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County OKs permits for Walnut Ridge

PRINCETON – Bureau County Board again showed support for the Walnut Ridge wind energy project at its Tuesday meeting.

The board unanimously approved conditional use permits for transmission lines, support structures, electrical transmission lines and communication facilities for the project.

BHE Renewables, owners of the wind project, were the applicants for the permits.

Before the approval of the permits, Bureau County Zoning Officer Kris Donarski read off 18 properties throughout the northern areas of the county where the transmission lines and communication facilities will be placed.

She said Bureau County Regional Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Bureau County Zoning Committee all recommended the conditional use permits. However, Bureau County Soil and Water (BCSW) had submitted a recommendation the wetland areas near the project should be avoided, as well as the conservation practices by landowners because they are important to land erosion and water quality.

Also before the board vote, Bureau County State’s Attorney Geno Caffarini said the village of Walnut had originally contested conditional use permits located on properties within 1.5 miles of the village. He said the village originally thought they had jurisdiction over the land, however looking into the matter further, it was discovered the village does not have jurisdiction on that property. Caffarini said the village withdrew its objection after the matter was investigated.

Along with the conditional use permits, the county board also approved the decommissioning and site restoration plan agreement with Walnut Ridge for the transmission line project.

All votes on the Walnut Ridge issues were unanimous by the board.

As previously reported, the county board approved 127 conditional use permits in January for the operation of the Walnut Ridge Wind Energy Project. Of those conditional use permits, 123 were for wind turbines, which are expected to be placed on properties throughout Ohio, Walnut, Greenville, Manlius and Bureau townships. The project spans across 14,000 acres.