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Wind farm drama goes to roads

Residents that live in the area of Harrisville Road, just east of Calhan, have noticed a deterioration in road conditions since work began on the Golden West Wind Farm Project. Harrisville Road is located on the haul route that Blattner Energy, a contractor working for project owner NextEra Energy Resources, routinely uses.ìIt (Harrisville Road) has been completely chewed up from the amount of trucks running across it,î said Kris Renick, a member of the El Paso County Property Rights Coalition who lives off Harrisville Road. ìI parked next to a part of the road that was really bad to warn people that the damage was there. Blattner Energy told me not to park there, but I told them they needed to fix it because somebody is going to wreck. Their basic response was that they were going to fill in the holes with a concrete mix, but not until the wind farm project was done in nine months.îRenick said she called the sheriffís office and a deputy responded, however no crime had been committed.At that same time, another vehicle drove through the area, and the person driving slid into the dirt on the shoulder because of the road damage. ìIt bounced me around enough and shook the tailgate open on the trailer I was towing,î said Jack Berman. He said he would have taken another route, but Harrisville Road is the only route he can use to get to Calhan. ìThat road was fine, but when the trucks started coming through, there were ruts and sand from where they tore up the road,î Berman said.Andre Brackin, an engineer with El Paso County, said that both Blattner and NextEra must maintain the roads on the wind farm projectís approved haul route during the life of the projectís contract with the county. Additionally, NextEra will have to rehabilitate the roads along that route to be as good as or better than the conditions of the roads prior to construction.ìThereís a development agreement, just like with any other developer, that puts the responsibility on Blattner and NextEra to maintain the haul route,î Brackin said. ìThey put up millions of dollars in an escrow account to pull from if they donít follow up, and then we send a contractor out there to fix it and then fine the companies for not doing their jobs.îIn the event the trucks are deviating to roads outside the approved haul route, the county could shut down the wind farm project by pulling the permits on the existing haul routes until the roads are fixed, he said.ìThey had to haul a lot of gravel in a short amount of time, but weíre going to get a brand new paved road out of Harrisville once theyíre done,î Brackin said.Injunction filed to halt constructionOn March 5, the El Paso County Property Rights Coalition filed a lawsuit against the EPC Board of County Commissioners and NextEra, claiming that the BOCC ìerred and abused its discretion and exceeded its jurisdiction when it approved the (wind farm) project as amended at the Feb. 5 BOCC meeting,î according to the April issue of The New Falcon Herald.On April 8, the EPCPRC also filed an injunction to halt construction on the project, which began in early April.As of late April, NextEra had not filed a response to the injunction, Wilson said.Motion to dismiss lawsuit filedOn April 7, the BOCC and NextEra filed a motion to dismiss the entire lawsuit. Dave Rose, EPC chief public information officer, said they filed the motion because the county did not believe the lawsuit met the statutory requirements to reverse the BOCCís decision.ìLand use decisions of this type are not only within the jurisdiction of the board, they are a statutory responsibility of the board,î Rose said. ìAnd, far from a decision made in an arbitrary manner, there were lengthy public hearings on the wind farm proposal during which time a large amount of competent evidence was submitted and carefully considered by the board. Therefore, the county has requested that the complaint be dismissed.î

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