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County to proceed with further wind energy research

Buchanan County leaders have opted to continued proceeding with inquiries that could lead to the eventual location of a wind turbine farm.

That decision follows a nearly 1-1/2-[hour] session last week with representatives of Black & Veatch, an engineering firm which the county is using as an independent consultant to assist with the research.

A draft presentation of a wind energy ordinance was reviewed section-by-section last Wednesday night by Black & Veatch and county officials at the courthouse. The Buchanan County Planning and Zoning Commission said the proposal will soon be placed online for residents to read. Information on public hearings is expected to be released later, and will be held subsequent to the county’s review – a process which could be completed within three months.

Yet Black & Veatch has already indicated with its statements that it recognizes the county will want to ensure residents have input into the document.

“We want to encourage development without impacting existing resources,” said Doug Timpe, a project manager with the firm.

One planning and zoning member asserted the need for feedback.

“I would think as early as possible you would want to include (the) public,” said Steve Reardon.

Currently, the eastern portions of the county are being scrutinized for the potential location of a wind farm, with Florida-based NextEra expressing interest in its construction. However, the western part of the county is not being completely ruled out, officials added, even with the proximity to the Missouri River and its range of federally protected wildlife. Yet the consultants stressed that that could be problematic, given the need for a thorough examination of impacts to wildlife and cultural resources, along with wetlands permitting near the river.

“You’re going to have to make decisions with the developer on those issues,” said Timpe. “You’re going to have a lot of information to review.”

Planning and zoning members asked incisive questions on the projected ordinance’s finer points. Once fully deliberated, a vote will be taken and the ordinance will be recommended to the Buchanan County Commission for ultimate approval.

Timpe advised the county to hold a “pre-approval” meeting with developers before proceeding with the project.

“That kind of starts the communication process,” he added.

Zoning panelists told Black & Veatch they would like to see wind flow maps placed within the ordinance, to help determine where the strongest patterns exist in the county.

“It’s not a problem to include that,” said Timpe, who noted that an evaluation of impacted property values would also be written into the paperwork.

The board is also interested in guidance on negotiating land rights with property owners for situating the wind turbines, and what types of compensation would be available for obtaining permission. Noise the turbines create while in operation is another matter.

“One thing you can ask for is a noise modeling study,” Timpe said, also explaining that miles of access roads to be built for turbines would become a vital issue.

Reardon said he is troubled by reports that wind turbines interfere with television signals, and wondered about the reimbursement users could be entitled to under such circumstances.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” he said of the interference.

Black & Veatch will continue to fine tune the ordinance based on the board’s questions, and submit a revised proposal, perhaps as early as its Sept. 11 meeting.

After the meeting, Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer told News-Press NOW the process will also include seeking wise counsel from other Northwest Missouri counties that have had prior experience working with wind energy firms via their own projects.

“Really at this point, we’re trying to put together a thoughtful ordinance,” he said.