Road Use agreement still in negotiations

The Road Use Agreement for the Soldier Creek Wind Farm, which is to be located in southern Nemaha County, is still under negotiations between Nemaha County and NextEra Energy Resources. While county officials are continuing to work through the Road Use Agreement, some Nemaha County residents have concerns regarding a laydown yard, which is to be located in Harrison Township.

During the Nemaha County Commission meeting on Monday, Feb. 10, Commissioners Tim Burdiek, Dennis Henry and Gary Scoby listened to concerns from Ginny Pfrang and Nancy Niehues regarding the laydown yard, as well as mixed messages they had been receiving – as neighbors – from NextEra representatives.

“Unfortunately, the people who are sacrificing the most and getting compensated for nothing are hearing the least,” Pfrang said.

Mark Trumbauer, NextEra’s project manager, said they have been in contact with the families regarding the laydown yard, which is to be located on private property owned by James and Freda Dobbins.

“We’ve been in communication with the group down there, including Wayne [Niehues] and his family, and Ginny [Pfrang] and her family,” Trumbauer said. “We’ll continue to stay in contact. There’s a lot of questions about what is going on, and we want to make sure we give an accurate representation of what they are going to expect down there. There was some misinformation, and hopefully we got it cleared up.”

“Would you consider it cleared up?” Burdiek asked. “They are putting this laydown yard on private property. We can’t dictate what’s going to happen on private property.”

“Our main reason was to see if they would consider putting it at a more convenient place for the rest of the neighbors that will be affected,” Pfrang said.

Burdiek requested N. Niehues’ opinion on the laydown yard.

“You’re actually the one that is going to be affected the most,” Burdiek said.

“Putting it right there on the corner would restrict all the traffic that goes by,” N. Niehues said. “You may not think so, but you’ve got wind turbines going by. You’ve got blades going by. You’ve got employee cars going in 24/7, and I feel like it should be put in a different spot.”

NextEra representative Spencer Jenkins and Trumbauer said that wind turbine blades and components would not be stored at the laydown yard.

“When we met with you, we went through all of the items that go on,” Trumbauer said. “It is not 24/7 there. We will have security there that is going to be 24/7, but it’s going to be employees coming and going during normal business hours and construction hours of the project. That was a huge concern from you folks down there and we clarified that when we met with you last week. And the other thing that is going in that laydown yard is simple components, being delivered there, reels and cables. None of the big equipment is going to be stored there. We’re going to try and continue to work with folks out there and make sure we’re good neighbors.”

“I still don’t feel comfortable about it, but okay,” N. Niehues said.

Trumbauer said NextEra would do their best to not be “obtrusive” to the neighborhood.

“We’ve done all of our studies on the ground. It’s passed all of the environmental issues. There’s no issues with it from that standpoint,” Trumbauer said. “For us to pick it up and move it to some other location at this point in time is not feasible. That’s the response we’ve given the neighbors, and I thought that was understood regarding how much land we had down there. Originally, we had about 20 acres of ground leased with the Dobbins’ family. We’ve shifted that farther to the south in response to the concerns from the Niehues family. We’re doing everything possible.”

Burdiek asked about lighting at the laydown yard.

“It will be general site lighting; two or three lights that will be shining downwards, and they’re going to be within the portable light standards,” Trumbauer said. “But we have to keep lights out there for security purposes. You don’t want a dark site, especially with the amount of cable and copper that’s out there. It’s not something that would stay out there if we didn’t have those types of lights out there. It’s not going to be a big glow in the sky.”

“That is where we were misled,” Pfrang said. “We were told it was big cranes and bright lights.”

“So, none of the heavy equipment will be in there? They’re usually at the sites?” Burdiek asked Trumbauer.

“Yes,” Trumbauer said.

“That is what I wanted to clarify today,” Pfrang said. “That is the story we heard that got us upset.”

“You did the right thing by contacting us,” Henry said. “We contacted them and told them they needed to get out there and talk to both of you, and get things back in line.”

“They have been good about talking to us and understand where the Niehues’ are coming from, because they will be the ones that will be affected the most,” Pfrang said.

Burdiek reminded those present that if there are any issues, landowners can make complaints through a complain process.

The Nemaha County Commission will meet again at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 21, for their regular meeting due to President’s Day falling on Monday, Feb. 16. The commissioners plan to have another lengthy executive session at the beginning of their meeting with their hired wind farm attorney James Neeld.

Heather Stewart183 Posts

Heather Stewart is a reporter for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. She specializes in court and sports reporting, as well as photography. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.

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