County learns from first large wind project, takes extra time on second

Greene County drainage clerk Michelle Fields and engineer Wade Weiss are taking extra time before signing off on the construction permits for MidAmerican Energy’s new wind turbines in eastern Greene County.

Fields told the county supervisors Monday the drainage agreement includes one turbine on top of a surface drain (waterway) and two more within 50 feet of the drain. She said she was told by MidAmerican that the turbines could be moved only 50 feet without having to re-apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for permitting.

“I’m not comfortable signing it (the agreement) without knowing they’re going to move it, but I’m holding up the show by doing that,” Fields told the supervisors.

“It’s never going ever get to a 500-year flood plain, but it’s not good where it is now,” she said about the placement of the one turbine. “I’m not an engineer, but there’s a lot of water that moves through there and that tower is going to be right in the middle of all of it. Nobody’s going to be happy.”

The supervisors have directed zoning coordinator Chuck Wenthold not to issue construction permits until both the drainage agreement and the road use agreement are in place.

Assistant county attorney Thomas Laehn suggested an addendum could be added to the agreement concerning the three turbines. Wenthold reminded the supervisors that MidAmerican has planned extra sites in case some prove to be unusable.

Fields said the landowner might be disappointed if those sites aren’t used, “but the farmer and everybody upstream might be happy.”

Weiss has mentioned several times disagreement with MidAmerican Energy about damage done to roads during construction of the first 43 wind turbines. Moving the overweight rough terrain crane on gravel roads damaged them.

The agreement for the second group of wind turbines includes verbiage that the county engineer must agree to any use of overweight or oversize equipment. The rough terrain cranes must be hauled by permitted vehicles, not driven on paved or gravel roads. Laehn has reviewed the agreement and said it adequately protects the county interests.

“The only issue I have, and they want to start work next week, is that I have yet to get anything on our last road damage assessment,” Weiss said. “My thought is I’m going to give a short statement that we’d like to see preliminary results of the road damage assessment (from the first phase).”

Weiss explained that damage to tile lines or other structures under the road isn’t seen until after the project is done. “The other thing is that I don’t trust them anymore. They don’t follow through on what they say they’re going to do,” he said. “They kept telling us they weren’t running the cranes on the roads until we saw it for ourselves.”

He said MidAmerican has contacted WHKS & Company, which does the county’s bridge inspection, to identify all the bridges in the area that will be affected. That wasn’t done before starting the first project. “We’re in better shape this time. We’re learning. More importantly, they’re learning. They knew what they were doing. They just didn’t know the rules,” Weiss said.

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