12/13/2012 10:49:00 AM Goodhue County to PUC: end favored status for Goodhue Wind
by Paul Martin
Goodhue County Board voted by consent to ask the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to withdraw C-BED status for the large Goodhue wind project at its December 6 meeting. C-BED stands for Community-Based Energy Development, and is a favored status granted to power generation projects that are largely or wholly locally owned, with profits flowing to the local area. Business advantages are given to plans that qualify, though recent changes in the law have reduced those benefits.
The Goodhue Wind plan calls for building about 50 turbines generating 78 Megawatts over a large area between Cannon Falls, Goodhue and Zumbrota. Original ownership documents from 2008 showed close to 100% local ownership, but the withdrawal request filed by County Attorney Steve Betcher notes that at least two complete changes of ownership have taken place since that time.
The current owner is shown as Peter J Mastic Holdings II, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company. "Finance and Commerce," the Twin Cities business journal, reported in September that the first the PUC knew of this latest change was through a change in the letterhead used for a September filing. Betcher's letter states "One can only conclude that [the developer] cannot continue to qualify for C-BED status ... and must resubmit its proposed project to the PUC and Minnesota Department of Commerce."
No Decision on Land for Vital Link in Trail Network
The board again debated the purchase of 26 acres of land next to the county park on Hwy. 19. Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has negotiated a deal to purchase a parcel needed for the new Trail Bridge, which is set to be built just downstream from the Byllesby Dam in 2013. The bridge, which will not be open to vehicles, would carry the Mill Towns Trail, which is planned to link Cannon Falls, Northfield and Faribault at a future date. Its completion would link to existing trails to form a 140-mile trail all the way from Red Wing to beyond Mankato.
Although the state has negotiated on the understanding that the county would purchase the land not needed for the bridge, commissioners are balking at the $254,000 price, at least until they know that easements are in place to carry the new trail along the river into Cannon Falls. The alternative route along the shoulder of Hwy 19 and then up the west side of Hwy 52 to the river is nowhere near as attractive. The state's contract to buy the land expires on December 31, so a decision is needed quickly. Without the land, funding for the bridge is lost, and the bridge and trail may never be built.
Isakson said, "We brought this to the board in March 2011, and you then agreed that the State Parks and Trails Board should try to buy the land. If we buy it, we can sell it the next day if we want to - but it is problematic if we now back out."
For the DNR, Steve Hennessey reported, "We have a deal with two of the land owners involved, and we are negotiating with the third, Mr. Andy Sandstrom."
Commissioner Jim Bryant said, "Mr. Sandstrom called me, and says he has no intention of selling any of his land. I can't vote to spend $1/4 million unless I know the trail will follow the river."
Board Chair Richard Samuelson, however, disagreed, and believes that Sandstrom has agreed to meet with [County Public Works Director] Greg Isakson, the DNR and the State Parks Board.
Land Purchase may be Good for the County
Others see opportunity where Bryant and Commissioner Ted Seifert see problems. Commissioner Ron Allen said, "Our interest is to turn this land into an RV campground, whether we develop it ourselves, or rent or sell to a private party who will develop it. Dakota County Park is frequently overflowing."
Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel agreed, "Land prices continue to go up. I don't see this as being stuck with a property nobody wants. We have a lot of good prospects, and need to look at the bigger picture." The board voted 5 to 0 to table the final decision until the December 18 meeting.
New Ag-Supply Business
for Holden Township
Central Valley Co-Op applied for a Conditional Use Permit for a large new agricultural supply facility north of Kenyon. The 30-acre site is at the junction of State Hwys. 246 and 56. The business would store and distribute fertilizer, seed, anhydrous ammonia and other products. It would consolidate and expand Central Valley operations in Goodhue County.
The permit was granted, but not before area Commissioner Rechtzigel had added two conditions to address local safety concerns. These are that trucks going to and from the facility would use county and state blacktop roads as their primary routes; and that Central Valley Co-Op would work with the state and county highways departments to add turn lanes as part of the resurfacing project planned for Hwy. 56 in summer 2013.
No Public Comment
The agenda called for the meeting to end with a period for public comment on the proposed county budget for 2013. Not one county resident came to comment. One resident came to question the valuation of his property, and consulted with county staff as the meeting came to a quiet end.