Citing potential harm to its economic interests, the city of Urbana has opposed a proposed plan by the Buckeye Wind farm that would move a temporary construction yard to the intersection of U.S. 36 and Three-Mile Road.
Champaign County officials also said this week they will intervene in the case, largely because of concerns about the wind company’s plan to bury miles of power cables underground as it builds nearly 100 turbines.
Both the city and county worry that Buckeye’s plan to move the construction yard could harm a planned sewer line extension to the Robert Rothschild Farm, which is also located near that intersection.
The city, county and Rothschild Farm reached an agreement earlier this year to extend a sewer line near that location, allowing the company to expand and hire as many as 25 new full-time employees. The line represents about a $787,000 investment between the three entities. Overall, Rothschild Farm is a roughly $27 million a year business, but its owner has previously stated it could become a $40 to $45 million business within a few years.
Earlier this month, developers for the Buckeye Wind Farm sought permission from the Ohio Power Siting Board to move three temporary construction yards and relocate about six miles of power lines onto private property.
Developers from the wind project said the proposal was designed to reduce the impact on county roads during construction and said there should be no impact on the sewer extension. Representatives from the wind company could not be reached for comment Thursday.
A first phase of the wind farm has already been approved, and a second phase could be approved by the state this spring. If approved, the two projects together would install about 100 turbines in the county. The second phase could generate as much as $1.26 million in annual taxes in the region.
The city’s request to intervene acknowledges the sewer line extension would likely be complete before Buckeye would need to use the site for a staging area. But there are concerns that the sewer line project could be delayed, or heavy equipment used during construction of the wind farm could damage the finished sewer line.
“No representatives from Buckeye Wind have contacted the city with regard to resolution of the city’s concerns about the sewer line,” the city’s motion to intervene states. “Instead, Buckeye Wind asserts the relocation of the staging area to a different parcel more than a mile closer to the city limits will have, ‘no substantial impact,’ with no discernible justification for that conclusion.”
The city also argues Buckeye never had permission to use the property at Ohio 814 and U.S. 36 as a staging area, even though it indicated it had a lease for the site in its initial application in the first phase of the project.
Any local government can intervene if it has concerns with Buckeye’s request, said Matt Butler, a spokesman for the siting board. State staff members are reviewing the application and will publish a report of investigation. The board will make a ruling on the application at a later date, Butler said.
Earlier this week, the Champaign County commissioners also approved a resolution saying they will intervene in the case, although the motion had not yet been filed by Thursday afternoon.
The county will support the city’s concerns about the proposed construction site, said Bob Corbett, Champaign County commissioner. In addition, there are concerns about Buckeye being allowed to bury power lines under the right of way without input and approval from the county.
“Currently, we do not have buried electric lines in our right of way,” said Stephen McCall, Champaign County engineer. “We’re obviously concerned with how we’re going to handle that.”
There are concerns the state could approve Buckeye’s request, overriding the county’s local interests, McCall said.
“We want to make sure we have control of or right of way,” McCall said.