After hearing from several county residents, Matagorda County Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the nomination of an area of the county designated as a reinvestment zone, with proposed zone area slated for a wind farm.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Charles “Bubba” Frick voted against the measure.
The formation of the reinvestment zone now allows E.On to begin negotiations with Matagorda County on the wind farm. The project was tabled a year ago and brought back to the table after the reinvestment zone was scaled down to the parcel of land that will be used during this phase of the proposed project.
Richard Saunders of E.On spoke on behalf of the company looking to locate the smaller scaled wind farm in the reinvestment zone.
“This agreements work very well for school districts and the Texas Comptroller’s Office has evaluated this project and has valued this at $42 million for Texas and more importantly $20 million for the county and the school district which would be Bay City ISD,” Saunders said.
Saunders said the project would guarantee 10 jobs with an investment on the bankroll being at $170-180 million.
“If Phase I is approved, we are pretty confident a second phase with a total investment of $400 million,” Saunders said.
Saunders said the company is looking for hire from within the community and expect all employees to live in this community as well.
County resident Dave Shields addressed commissioners over his concern with the project and what it would mean to his property that is located near the location.
“I like the idea of renewable energy and I like the idea that Matagorda County would be included in that it all appears to be good for the city of Bay City so I can see the pluses to it,” Shields said. “The minuses to it are I’m not looking forward to seeing those things across the highway but I don’t think having to listen to them needs to derail this project.”
Shields said he is concerned about how the roads in the areas are going to be able to handle the heavy loaded trucks that bring the turbines to the area.
“The road in this project area is a marginally paved road at best and when you add these trucks to that road it is going to damage it even further,” Shields said. “I think this company because they are putting this additional load on these roads they should pay for the damage they do to the road.”
Marilyn Sitz spoke on behalf of the Matagorda County Birding community that believe the wind turbines will adversely affect the birding community.
“We have counted more species of birds than any other area in the United States and we are nationally know for our Christmas Bird Count,” Sitz said. “I am speaking for the birders and especially for the birders that come to our bird count and help us count the species.”
Sitz said the birds are counted in a 15-mile radius diameter circle and is located just west of this proposed wind farm project.
“Birds fly and they are going to fly into these turbines,” Sitz said. “It might look innocent but the ends of these turbines are spinning at 200 mph and they are very devastating to the birds.”
Michael Ferdinand, executive director for the Matagorda County EDC, said the approval of the project would fair well for the county.
“They said they would employ 10 and when you add in all of our modifiers and multipliers to that you talking about the addition of 26 jobs to the county,” Ferdinand said. “This is going to have an incredible impact to our schools as well.”
In June of 2017, the Matagorda County EDC voted to support this project.
Bay City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture President Mitch Thames
“When I got here in this county, our unemployment was in the 14-16 percent rate and our incomes and moral was low,” Thames said. “We had to believe in ourselves and we had to step up. When I got here, people would ask me when is somebody going to come and save us? My answer was real clear, nobody is going to come and save us, we have to pick ourselves up.
“What we have seen with abatements and incentives are real jobs and real opportunities,” Thames said. “We have to continue with these abatements and continue with incentives and continue to lower our unemployment rate.”
Thames said the county’s unemployment rate is at six percent and still is two percent higher than neighboring counties.
“I want us as a county to continue moving forward and to continue to build all kinds of projects,” Thames said. “We need to continue to be open minded as a community to tax abatements and incentives because that is what these counties that are growing are doing. Let’s think long terms for our children and grandchildren can have a livable wage.”