TUSCOLA — Faced with mammoth amounts of information — studies, reports, comments from citizens — the Douglas County Board has pushed back a final vote on whether to let a wind farm set up shop.
The board was scheduled to rule Monday on Texas-based EDP Renewables' application to build the Harvest Ridge Wind Farm in Newman and Murdock townships.
But given that this is the first time the board has considered such a project, it will wait a couple more weeks, Chairman Don Munson said Monday night.
Meanwhile, it hired Muscatine, Iowa-based Stanley Consultants to help evaluate EDP's application, which an official said exceeds 1,000 pages.
"The consultant felt that EDP Renewables had fulfilled all their requirements for this application to be approved," Munson said.
In preparation for a final vote, the county held a public hearing last Thursday at the Tuscola Community Building, where proponents and opponents testified for nearly four hours. That coincided with the public being able to submit written feedback until Monday morning.
In the end, the planned timeline — a recommendation by the county board's Wind Energy Conversion System Committee at 9 a.m. Monday, followed by a board vote two hours later — felt too rushed, Munson said.
Over the weekend, he said, "some of the board members began to feel that, as a result of our lack of understanding of the whole process, we had crowded ourselves to make an informed, intelligent decision. Over the weekend, I realized I needed to ask more questions from our consultant before I could make an educated vote, and other board members contacted me saying they had questions as well."
So, the board came up with a new schedule, which starts with members submitting questions to the consultant and EDP.
That will be followed by a board study session, scheduled for 10 a.m. June 14, with Stanley and EDP representatives on hand to provide answers.
"Absolutely no further comments are going to be taken from the public," Munson said. "They had their day."
Then the committee will make its recommendation on June 18, with a county board vote following on June 19.
"It is an unfortunate delay," Harvest Ridge project manager Amy Kurt said Monday, "but we are confident we can provide the county board all the information they need to complete the process."
If the permit is approved by the county board, Kurt said construction would begin almost immediately.
She estimated it would take six to nine months to complete the wind farm.