During Tuesday’s Clay County Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors indicated that investigation and research is still ongoing related to concerns raised at previous meetings, surrounding a planned wind farm in the northwest portion of Clay County. Both in communication with, and independent of, APEX Clean Energy, supervisors suggested that they were currently working to address or alleviate concerns raised surrounding possible tile and infrastructure damages, decommissioning arrangements and aerial application.
“One of the concerns that we have is our drainage district tiles. People are levied for those drainage districts, so it’s our job to make sure we’re good stewards of those drainage district tiles. So we’ve been working with APEX, taking some language out, putting some language in, to ensure that our systems are there first. So anything that comes in would have to make sure it’s deep enough under that it wouldn’t become a problem in the implementation of putting it in. Also, if there’s any problems with the heavy equipment going over those tiles, the company would be in charge of getting those fixed, and we’ve talked to several other counties that have gone through this, and they have been very good about … repairing district drainage tile, so that’s not a problem,” Clay County Supervisor Barry Anderson said.
He continued, “Another area that is of heavy interest is road use and bridges. We’ve got to make sure that the quality of roads is still in place after they’re gone, and from the agreement that we have, … they will send an engineering company out and they will look at the path that will be taken. … They’ll look at those roads, what kind of shape they’re in, and they will figure out … how much life is going to be taken out of those roads and bridges. They factor that in to how to much is paid to the county.”
Supervisors Burlin Matthews and Dan Skelton provided in-depth explanations of the communications and investigating they’ve done regarding aerial application concerns.
“Aircraft spraying, that’s a big concern for those of us that have an agricultural background. … You hear a variety of people tell you different things. So, I have talked specifically – even again yesterday – with an Alliant Energy representative from Hampton, Iowa. He’s their wind farm manager at that location, and he reassured me over the phone that yes, they do shut their turbines down, and will turn the blades, if they’re notified either by the aerial spraying company or by the ag supplier that’s lining these up. … He said ‘we actually shut ours down for two hours, but we have to be notified ahead of time.’ I (also) have a call-in to the person that oversees that for the state of Iowa and I’m waiting on a return call. … In the mean time, I have the names of two other aerial sprayer companies that do spray around turbines, and are willing to continue to do that,” Matthews said.
“There are two factors here – the even application of the chemical product, and the safety of the pilot,” Skelton said.
“There’s another (factor) too, and that is the fact that if they can’t, the pilots may not get within 50 to 100 feet within a turbine. So, the farmer that’s hired this individual to come in and spray needs to be well aware that there may be some product that doesn’t get done. I’ll give you an example: … they’re spraying for aphids, and the aerial applicator gets a perfect job on everything except a little bit around the turbines themselves, and the farmer walks out and takes a look at that and says ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on here.’ So, farmers need to be aware of that, and I’m sure they are, because there’s times you need to use aerial applicators,” Matthews said.
Anderson spoke with Brenna Gunderson, senior development manager at APEX Clean Energy, specifically about tiling crew concerns, and any impact that buried electric lines may create for farmers and their ability to tile.
“I’ve heard some concerns, … ‘They bring in their own tiling crew, they don’t care where the private tile is, they don’t really listen to us.’ That’s not what we got from Brenna. Brenna wants to set up with local tile people, that the local people are acquainted with and comfortable with. … They want to work along with everybody too, so that’s a positive to me, they’re looking at using local people and not just bringing somebody from the outside that we don’t know,” Anderson said.
Anderson also reiterated that potential buried electrical lines impacting area farmers and their ability to tile was an important issue to him.
“I said ‘OK, if you start at the end of the field and (a farmer) comes in and you want to tile in across the whole field, he needs slope. So if you have an electric line running through there, I’ve heard that electric companies now have to have a 6-inch buffer on top or beneath that line,’ and (an) engineer says ‘yeah, we would have that in place,’ so … if he needs to run from one end of the farm to the other, he may not be able to get his slope, to stay away from that line,” Anderson said. “I think we need to at least fight for our local people, because if they’re going to put that at a 4-foot level, that’s right in the sweet spot of tiling. Around 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet, … if that line is going to be at 4 feet, it’s gonna be right where they need to be. They need to be able to still have as much room as possible.”
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