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Administration Committee supports local input on wind farms

The Eau Claire County Administration Committee supported a resolution requesting changes at the state level to give local residents more input on the siting of wind farms.

During its meeting Tuesday afternoon, committee members unanimously voted in favor of the proposed resolution, which says the county supports local entities having input on large projects that exceed 100 megawatts. According to current state statute, permits for wind farms would be approved by the state Public Service Commission.

The town of Clear Creek recently passed a moratorium putting a one-year ban on any new wind farm action to provide enough time to gather more information about the potential effects. The moratorium was passed in response to RWE Renewables Americas exploring the possibility of installing 40 to 70 wind turbines on about 20,000 acres of farmland in Clear Creek and Pleasant Valley in south central Eau Claire County. The significant potential project would exceed 100 megawatts. RWE officials have said they don’t foresee starting construction on the Eau Claire County project before 2023.

Supervisor Steve Chilson, whose district covers Clear Creek and Pleasant Valley, introduced the proposal and told the Leader-Telegram that it is important to give residents time to understand the process and for people to ask the necessary questions about the impact and ramifications.

During the committee meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Colleen Bates said not including local input would be “a huge mistake” for a potential project of this size.

Board Chair Nick Smiar said citizens should have a voice, and supervisor Mark Beckfield agreed.

“You should have some input on what happens in your neighborhood,” Beckfield said.

County Corporation Counsel Timothy Sullivan in November said the county does not have authority to adopt a development moratorium for a wind energy farm, which is why change would have to come from the state level.

The County Board will consider the resolution for final approval during its Feb. 19 meeting.

The committee also approved a resolution supporting the creation of the Chippewa Valley Regional Transportation Authority.

The Wisconsin Legislature is considering Senate Bill 576, which would create the CVRTA to make more public transit options available. Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Town of Brunswick, co-introduced the bill, and Rep. Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, co-sponsored it.

The creation of a CVRTA would likely help create a corridor between the Chippewa Valley and the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Bates called it an “essential step” to forming a better connection with the Twin Cities.

If state legislators approve the bill, the County Board would have to approve a resolution for the county to join the CVRTA, and a majority of Eau Claire County voters would also have to approve the project during a public referendum. If both of those happen, the Chippewa County Board could also vote to join the CVRTA.

Other business

The committee approved an ordinance to amend part of the county code to compensate every supervisor with a $30 annual per diem plus mileage to attend meetings. The change would have an estimated total cost of $770 per year.

The committee voted to appoint Dustin Indermuehle to the Veterans Service Commission. The appointment needs final approval from the County Board next week.

There will be a joint committee meeting with the Administration Committee, Human Services Board and Finance and Budget Committee Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. The next Administration Committee meeting is scheduled for March 10.