County commissioners, tired of roads in the Diamond Vista wind farm area not being maintained to their standards, discussed taking action against the company Monday.
Damage from heavy rains has led to a dispute over whether the county or the wind farm company should be responsible for repairs. Enel Green Energy, the company developing Diamond Vista, considers the heavy rains to be an unforeseeable event not in the scope of their responsibility.
Enel’s agreement with the county calls for the wind farm to make repairs to all roads it uses during construction and restore roads to the same condition as before wind farm construction began. Upon completion of construction, the roads are to be inspected and agreed to be in pre-construction condition.
Commission chairman Kent Becker said he does not consider a five-inch rain to be an unforeseeable event in Kansas.
“This is our third meeting when we’ve given Diamond Vista a kick in the butt,” commissioner Dianne Novak said.
Novak said the wind farm work has disrupted water drainage, yet Enel claims rain damages are the county’s problem.
Tanner Yost, engineer, and Dave Prater, construction observer for Kirkham Michael consulting engineers, showed commissioners photos of 15 sections of roads in dispute.
Two portions on Nighthawk were repaired, but Enel has refused to repair the other 13 sections.
“We do have a right to revoke that conditional use permit,” commissioner Randy Dallke said.
Kirkland Michael has written to Enel about the damage, but that has not accomplished anything.
County counsel Brad Jantz said a weather event falls into a “gray area,” and if the county revokes Enel’s conditional use permit, there will likely be ramifications.
“We’re probably going to end up in court,” Jantz said. “That would be the ultimate action.”
“Somebody’s got to tell me before we go any further whether they have a leg to stand on,” Dallke said.
Jantz said a court’s decision as to whether the wind farm should have anticipated rain damage could swing either way – for or against the county.
Becker said when 10 feet of culverts stick out, it needs to be fixed.
Jantz suggested giving Enel a punch list of repairs that need to be done along with a time limit to accomplish the work.
Dallke suggested having Novak buy bolt cutters for use on Diamond Vista turbines, a remark that drew laughs.
County engineer Brice Goebel said Enel never anticipated construction work taking the year and a half it has been.
“They are looking to save money and get out,” Goebel said. “But we don’t care.”
Goebel said also that Enel is having internal issues with employee turnover.
Commissioners voted to have Jantz send a letter to Enel about the situation.
In another road-related matter, Union Pacific trains stopping overnight across the road leading to Ramona block off the only way in or out of the town. Novak said this creates a public safety issue, especially if someone needs an ambulance.
Jantz said he’s run into the same scenario many times, and what usually happens is that the railroad company tells the county to bill them for the fine.
Commissioners voted to have Jantz send a letter to the railroad company.