Morgan County Commissioners Approve Lincoln Land Wind Siting Permit

By Benjamin Cox on September 8, 2020 at 3:07pm

The Morgan County Commissioners approved the siting permit for the Lincoln Land Wind Project this morning. The vote passed 2-0, with Commissioner Chairman Brad Zeller abstaining from the vote. Zeller stated on the record that his abstention was due to his family’s farm being in the footprint in the project near Alexander and that family members have signed agreements with Apex Clean Energy for either good neighbor agreements or to site a turbine on their property.

The commissioners passed the permit for 119 sites in the county. Only 107 wind turbines will be placed on the sites. The remaining sites will be alternates should some of the sites be denied by conditions determined by engineering or if conditions and permissions aren’t approved by other entities.

Morgan County Commissioner Ginny Fanning asked several questions about some of the underlying conditions with siting applications that are still being worked on: “The Aircraft Detection Lighting System, the ADLS, has been extremely important to all of us, and we wanted to confirm that Apex in fact had filed the application with the FAA, and that it is in the process of being approved. That is something that we definitely are going to see that as one of the conditions of the permit to be fulfilled. We also are checking on the Kansas City-Southern railway. One of the conditions is whether or not they are going to be able to get a wire crossing agreement with the railroad. If in they don’t, would those 6 turbines near the railroad be eliminated? We confirmed that those 6 turbines would be eliminated, however, the number of turbines will still stay at 107 because they had spare sites draw into the site plan.”

Ed Kindred, a concerned citizen in the footprint, also spoke during public comment about the Matthews Family Cemetery that is located in the footprint. He said that one of the wire crossings is through the property of the cemetery. Kindred said that the cemetery is no longer marked with headstones because the previous owner of the property in the 1970s removed the headstones and placed them in Antioch Cemetery adjacent to the family plots. Kindred said the burials were never removed and he asked the commissioners to possibly have the line moved. Kindred also voiced concerns about the ADLS system be approved before the building permit is issued for the project.

Fanning says there are also concerns about several other agreements that are needed prior to the building permit is voted upon: “We are very concerned about the road use agreement. Our county engineer [Matt Coultas] and our road commissioners are all working diligently on that and are wanting to make sure that we are happy with the road agreement is determined through this condition of permitting. Also, one of the very important things is the decommissioning of the project. The letter of credit, if we determine the amount that the decommissioning is going to cost, Patrick Engineering is helping us to determine that, and the cost has not been determined yet. Again, it is a condition that has to be determined and fulfilled. The COVID response plan has been presented, and be reviewed, but that condition I think will be taken care of. I did want to clarify won’t begin construction [prior to the issuance of the construction permit.] Ameren may be doing some work, but that won’t be Apex doing that if there is any activity at the substation site. At this point, we will wait and see whether all these conditions are fulfilled, then the building permit will be issued.”

Fanning says that the largest determination for decommissioning will be what Apex chooses for an account to place money into take down the project when it’s reached end of life: “There is 3 choices. It could be a bond. It could be a letter of credit. It could be an escrow account. It has to be determined what that financial security is going to be. Then, what that amount is going to be. If it is a letter of credit, then they have to get the bank to approve that every year. Every 5 years, the whole amount is re-evaluated to see if needs to be increased – then it will be increased so that in order when it’s at the end, the cost is all covered.” Fanning says that the amount’s total will increase in line with the rise of inflation costs.

Fanning says that Apex is also currently working on presenting a timeline for the decommissioning of the project as well, prior to the construction permit vote.

In other business, the commissioners completed their fiscal year 2020 budget’s bills with a total of $47,760.77 and paid their first round of itemized bills for the current fiscal year for $6,267.83.

The next Commissioners meeting is set for 9AM Monday, September 14th.