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Panel needs details on decommissioning

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 10:58 a.m. CDT

DIXON – The Lee County zoning board approved findings of fact Tuesday that proved to be a mixed bag for a proposed wind farm.

But even the seemingly pro-wind farm members conceded that Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power had yet to provide a plan for the possible abandonment of wind turbines.

This has become a big issue for neighbors of wind farms, who say they don’t want to see old, inoperable turbines marring the landscape.

Ireland-based Mainstream has indicated it would keep $13,721 on hand for the possible decommissioning of the 53-turbine wind farm. But opponents say the cost of taking down the turbines would cost millions.

On Tuesday, the zoning board held its fourth meeting voting on findings of fact from its 27 hearings on the proposed wind farm. At the end of the process, the board will make a recommendation to the County Board, which has the final say.

Zoning board member Bruce Forester has proposed findings that are mostly favorable to Mainstream. On Tuesday, though, he pushed a finding that the county hadn’t received adequate information on Mainstream’s decommissioning plan.

He said he understood from testimony that neither Mainstream nor its opponents felt the company provided a proper decommissioning plan.

“Mainstream said it would come up with a plan, but they haven’t yet,” Forester said. “It should be a part of the permitting process.”

Member Tom Fassler said the company had run out of time.

“They had better get us a plan,” he said.

Another of Forester’s proposed findings was that the wind farm would provide economic development in Hamilton Township, an area deprived of it because it’s mostly a flood plain.

Residents have been circulating photos of last week’s flooding in the footprint of the proposed wind farm. They argue against putting a wind farm in a flood plain, saying it isn’t a good place for turbine foundations.

Fassler said it was still up for debate whether turbines were suitable in a flood plain.

The board approved Forester’s proposed finding, with Fassler dissenting. 

Members found that because the company hadn’t selected a turbine model, the county could make no determination whether the project would violate noise regulations.

Mainstream’s proposal is part of a three-county wind farm, which includes Whiteside and Bureau counties. Last year, Whiteside County approved nine turbines, while Bureau County’s zoning panel recommended against Mainstream’s plan for 19 turbines, saying it didn’t meet the county’s requirements.

Mainstream withdrew its proposal in Bureau County, saying it planned to submit a new one.

Lee County’s zoning board meets every night through Friday.

Public invited

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. today in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The board is in the decision-making process on the proposed Mainstream Renewable Power wind farm.

If needed, other meetings are scheduled for the same time and place Thursday and Friday and April 29 and 30.

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