August 31, 2021

Worthwhile Wind compliance with DNR called into question

Zachary Dupont | Globe Gazette | Aug 30, 2021 |

On Monday morning, Worthwhile Wind’s compliance with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was brought into question at the Worth County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The wind ordinance has been drafted partly in response to Invenergy’s Worthwhile Wind project, which aims to build a 30,000-acre wind farm in Worth and Winnebago counties.

Opponents of Worthwhile Wind have pointed to the negative impacts of wind turbines on the health and safety of county residents as a reason for more regulation. Proponents of the project claim there were no objections to the wind turbines until recently, and point to the $4.8 million in tax revenue the project would bring in for infrastructure improvements to the county.

Jeff Gorball, Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission chair, spoke at length in support of the proposed ordinance on wind energy. Gorball urged the supervisors to accept the ordinance rather than enter into a one-time agreement with Invenergy.

“Invenergy should be molding their project to fit and not vice versa,” Gorball said. “Let’s make no mistake, they’re here to put stuff in place and make tens of millions of dollars. … They’re not doing this to give us money, they’re doing it to make money, and they’re giving us some along the way. They don’t want to have to abide by any rules.”

Gorball was critical of Invenergy’s presentation to the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 9. In that meeting, Invenergy representative Mark Crowl said Invenergy had worked with the DNR extensively on compliance.

Gorball voiced his doubts, claiming Invenergy ignored recommendations regarding setbacks made by the DNR.

“The DNR gave strong recommendations to Invenergy, but looking at what Invenergy put together in the presentation they gave, it looks like they didn’t go along with those DNR recommendations,” Gorball said. “There are very significant differences between what the DNR recommended and what they actually did.”

According to Gorball, DNR recommendations ignored by Invenergy include:

  • A two-mile buffer for wildlife management areas. Invenergy did only one mile. 
  • A one-mile buffer for other protected areas. Invenergy did only half of a mile.  
  • A three-acre woodlands should have a one-mile buffer. Invenergy only did 1,000 feet. 
  • Eagle nests should have a five-mile buffer. Invenergy only did a one-mile buffer. 
  • Gorball also claims Invenergy has a different list of eagle nests than the one used by the DNR, noting Invenergy only lists two eagle nests within the project area while the DNR lists six.

    According to Gorball, 24 of the Worthwhile Wind turbines fall within an area the DNR recommended no turbines be placed.

    It remains unclear what the direction of the Worth County Board of Supervisors will be, with Supervisor A.J. Stone reluctant to give any details on how the supervisors felt, despite being pressed by Gorball.

    “Basically, we’re not prepared yet to sign any agreements,” Stone said of the current status of the wind ordinance. “Not until we can make sure any agreement benefits the county first, and Invenergy second.”

    However, in that Aug. 9 meeting, Supervisor Enos Loberg made his feelings known, taking Crowl to task at the end of his presentation.

    Stone did note that the supervisors are waiting to hear back from their legal representation before moving forward.

    URL to article: