A representative of the renewable energy company EDP Renewables approached the Jasper County Commissioners on the morning of Monday, March 5 to discuss plans for a wind farm which may require use of a local county road. The project, a wind farm, would be located in Benton County. The project was planned to be placed at 2,000 feet west of Benton County Road 1100 East and therefore about 1,500 feet West of Jasper County Road 380, south of Jasper County Road 1900 South. If all goes as intended for the company, Construction may start as early as sometime in April.
One of the turbines planned for the project will require road access from Jasper County Road 1900 South. A large turbine component delivery will be coming into the area, and the company wishes to use that road as part of the transportation. Delivery vehicles would haul the parts in from the south on Benton County Road 1100 East, before making a left-hand turn onto Jasper County Road 1900 South.
The company’s proposed road use agreement is for 50 years, in case the turbine needs maintenance or repair via large deliveries sometime in the future. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will have the right to use a specific region of Jasper County 1900 South, with the understanding that any damages that occur to the road will be repaired. The company will be completing a road report before the project begins.
The company’s representative also acknowledged that the company is not allowed to go on the road while Jasper County’s frost law is being enacted, due to the weight of the vehicles. The frost law was taken off of enforcement on Friday, March 2.
Under this agreement, cranes would also be allowed to cross the road if properly matted. The company is pursuing land rights north of the road, and the representative stated the company may desire to cross 1900 South with a crane. Commissioners Kendell Culp and Dick Maxwell questioned the need for this.
“All that I was told in the preliminary meeting that we had was that you were going to move stuff in to put that tower in,” Maxwell said.
Culp and Maxwell insisted that the roads covered in the agreement be explicitly named, even though they are mapped out in the plans.
Some members of the public were also allowed to give comments during the discussion.
“Fifty years is an awfully long time to tie ourselves into something like this,” one Jasper County man said, “because, like you said, that’s generational land. I personally don’t think we need to tie our county up.”
He argued that, as someone else may take charge of the company at some point within the 50 years, there could be grounds for a renegotiation of the terms that doesn’t necessarily honor the original agreement.
Culp asked if the agreement would correlate with the lease the company has worked out with the landowner in Benton County, on whose property the turbine will be placed. The representative said this was “exactly” right. Another member of the public noted that the landowner may be benefitting from this, potentially at the expense of Jasper County’s road.
“You’re asking for Jasper County roads to be used as a convenience to an owner, a farm owner [in Benton County] who’s receiving a turbine and a turbine payment. He just doesn’t want to use his land to walk the equipment across…If it’s just one turbine, why can’t he go through his farm?”
When questioned, the representative said the turbine could “possibly” be built without coming into Jasper county. He also noted that the company is obligated by the agreement to take responsibility for road damages. Members of the public accused him of downplaying the number of times that company’s large vehicles and equipment would be needed on the Jasper County road to repair the turbine. One person from Jasper County stated that he has seen turbines in need of maintenance every couple of years or so.
“There’s continual maintenance on the turbines,” one Jasper County man said. “They require lots of heavy equipment.”
One man from Benton County, who stated that he has worked in Remington and had family in Jasper County “forever,” defended the company. He has helped to run wind farm equipment to turbines and insisted that the quality of the roads was maintained or improved.
“When these guys are done, you have as good, if not better, than what you started with,” he said.
The representative also notably stated that the company has never been in a discussion like this where it has not been able to resolve the issues over road repairs.
The Commissioners said that the representative will have to return with a new agreement during next month’s Commissioner’s meeting in the Jasper County Courthouse. Maxwell stated that they may be agreeable to the arrangement if the company agreed to repave the whole road space once the project was complete. Afterwards, it would be inspected to make sure it was done properly. The Commissioners would also like to ensure that public drainage lines are protected during the project.