MONTICELLO – Piatt County State’s Attorney Sarah Perry will work on writing new language for a proposed amendment designed to protect the interests of drainage districts during construction of wind farms.
The Piatt County Board tabled a motion last week, to approve the amendment that had been previously recommended by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
“I think we have a lot to get right, here,” said County Board Member Shannon Carroll in explaining his motion to delay the vote. “This is all new for everybody and maybe a little scary. We want to get this right and have our State’s Attorney get a good eye on it as well. I think we all agree that we want to protect the drainage districts. I just want to have the wording right for us.”
Earlier this month, the ZBA forwarded the amendment to the county board.
The language was drafted by Amy Rupiper, the Monticello attorney representing the DeLand Special Drainage District and Trenkle Slough Special Drainage District. Both are located in the proposed Goose Creek Wind Project in northern Piatt County.
The language requires a wind farm developer to identify all drainage district facilities, including surface drains, underground drainage tiles, open drainage ditches, culverts, and water gathering vaults that are impacted or potentially impacted by the Wind Energy Conversion (WEC) equipment.
This includes the crossing or use of any drainage easement along, above or under drainage district facilities.
“I would agree that there needs to be amendments to the ordinance,” Perry said. “I think there are a lot of things that aren’t specifically spelled out. For example, the language about repairs being made if there is damage done. It doesn’t say how long those repairs should take.”
Perry said there seems to be no disagreement on providing adequate notice to the drainage districts, but specifics on how to go about notifying them needs further clarification.
“I think what the process should be if an agreement is not reached, also needs to be spelled out,” she added. “I think the (proposed) amendments don’t specifically enough address those issues.”
Apex Clean Energy is proposing a 300-megawatt wind farm project that would include approximately 60 turbines. Officials are expected to file the Special Use Permit later this year.
DeWitt County issues
Drainage district officials have voiced their concerns about protection, following a recent state drainage district meeting where DeWitt County drainage district officials complained about a lack of protection during construction of the Alta Farms Wind Farm. Several tiles were reportedly damaged.
Apex officials offered their own amendment to the current wind farm ordinance to counter Rupiper’s recommendation. The language was disregarded by the ZBA, but Apex spokesman Max Jabrixio asked the full county board to consider the proposal.
“We know that there was a really important concern raised about a developer in another county who was constructing directly on top of a district’s tile without any coordination or notification to that district,” he said. “We all agree that is not the way that should have been handled.”
Jabrixio said Apex has issues with Rupiper’s language because it had the potential to create additional problems beyond trying to solve the concerns of drainage district officials.
Jabrixio said there are approximately six to eight districts the company would need to work with, if the project moves forward.
County Board Member Todd Henricks said that at the ZBA meeting, it was reported that some of the tiles may not be mapped, which could create unforeseen issues.
“Those are the kinds of things that need to be worked out,” he said. “I’m not opposed to the amendment.
But if Apex does eventually build and we do tear up an old tile that wasn’t mapped because Great-Grandpa didn’t report it when it was put in, how reliable is the contract whether it be with Apex, or a construction contractor who didn’t know the tile was there because it wasn’t on any drainage maps? Let’s try to get something for everybody so we make sure we do what is right for the county and the citizens.”
Board Member Randy Shumard was also in favor of tabling the measure.
“I agree with you and I think that all concerns should be heard, totally and thoroughly, before anything is agreed upon,” he said. “I agree that we probably should table this until every board member is totally convinced that this is going to be the best for everyone in the county.”
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