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Hearing set on Washington wind farm ordinance

Washington County residents will have their chance to weigh in on the county’s proposed wind project ordinance Wednesday night.

The Board of Supervisors will host a public hearing on the matter at 7 p.m., Wednesday at the Washington County Conservation Education Center, 2943 Highway 92 in Ainsworth.

The board is looking to put two ordinances in place, one regarding valuation of the land and equipment on wind farms and another regarding regulations pertaining to the construction and operation of a wind farm.

The valuation ordinance will be the subject of Wednesday’s public hearing.

In a January interview, Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. explained how the valuation deal the wind energy industry has with the state of Iowa works.

“There is no taxable valuation for the first year when those blades start turning,” Seward said.

The following year, the county can tax only 5 percent of its taxable valuation. Every year, it goes up 5 percent until a maximum of 30 percent is reached.

“All they will ever be taxed is 30 percent of the agreed upon valuation,” Seward said. “This ordinance sets out how they will establish that assessed value. I don’t know of any county in the state of Iowa that has a wind project that didn’t pass this ordinance.”

While there are no formal plans in place for wind turbine farms in the county, Seward said that the board wants to be proactive.

“When we first heard about this project coming in was in the summer of 2020,” Seward said. “As we started trying to think about it, we had some informal discussions with representatives from Invenergy, the company that is promoting this.”

Invenergy has opened an office in Washington County and has been seeking agreements with landowners for a potential wind farm project.

“From what little I know, I suspect they have to have about 10,000 acres within that footprint signed up,” Seward said. “I’ve been told that they plan on windmills that will be between 100 and 120 in number.”

The second ordinance, which would be considered by the board at a later date, sets out the rules and regulations that a wind energy company would have to follow if they build a project in the county.

“It would cover things like the big equipment is going to damage our roads, so if you’re going to do that, then we have an agreement about the road system and the repair and upkeep of it,” Seward said. “We also would have something to say about setbacks from their equipment to other property lines. We could have a different setback from a non-participating property owner.

“We could have required setbacks for agricultural buildings or residences or things like that.”

Another concern is whether a wind farm would interfere with the county’s new emergency communication system.

Decommissioning plans are another thing Seward said should be included in the second ordinance.

“If a wind farm doesn’t work out or if a turbine fails, they’re just not going to say it’s not worth it to fix it so they’re just going to let it stand and abandon it,” Seward said.