By Nancy McGill
The Thayer County Commissioners held a hearing April 6 via conference call with Rick Nelson, director of construction for Aksamit Resource Energy, on a conditional use permit for the development of a second wind measurement tower on private land near Alexandria.
The commissioners approved the permit following the call.
Nelson said Aksamit is continuing to monitor winds for the future Monument Road project, which calls for 40 wind towers near Hebron.
“Before we can even consider a wind farm, we have to have a number of years of data with in the project footprint,” Nelson told the commissioners.
Nelson said the Federal Aviation Administration guidelines have been met.
The tower will be the same size as Aksamit’s previous tower in the area — 197 feet tall — and will monitor winds 24 hours a day, seven days per week. The tower will support five anemometers, set at various elevations. Barometric and humidity devices will aid in monthly data collection.
Aksamit collects data for a minimum of two years.
Nelson said not to expect Aksamit to take the next step before 2018 if everything falls into place, including an environmental permit. An environmental scientist is working with the Aksamit team.
Nelson said the permit is a critical factor in moving forward. The earliest the team would be able to advance the project is March 2018.
“We have the investors in place for the Monument Road project,” Nelson, who added the team is looking at which substations will need improvement for cost reasons.
“We do not have interconnection right now,” he said. “Several million dollars are already invested. We have a very busy year.”
Aksamit is also looking to sign additional landowners.
“We have a long way to go,” Nelson said.
Nelson ended the conference call by mentioning Omaha Public Power District is working with Facebook for a 100-percent renewable data center.
“Industries are coming to mid-America from the coasts,” Nelson said.
Next, the commissioners moved to the district courtroom for a public hearing on an approximately 10,000 head intensive feeding operation, one mile from Byron.
Thayer County Attorney Dan Werner addressed the operation’s proximity to Byron regarding wind direction, and steps to keep the odor and flies down.
County zoning and planning chairman, Gary Miller, said the commission had postponed its decision at the initial hearing for the feeding operation March 23. On April 3, however, the commission opted to recommend permitting under the plan designed by Settje Agri-Services and Engineering, Inc., with additional dust, odor and fly control and inspections. The decision is ultimately approved by the county commissioners, who were scheduled to make it April 12.
“Based on these considerations, it will not unreasonably interfere with neighboring properties,” Miller said.
Water was also a factor, however, the commissioners do not regulate water, which is the responsibility of the Little Blue Natural Resources District.
Brief opposition was expressed at the zoning and planning hearing in March, but no one spoke against the project during the commissioners’ hearing.
A neighbor to the proposed feedlot, Kathy Marquart, spoke at the zoning hearing and said she was concerned about road traffic and health. Her family uses nebulizers to combat asthma.
She said she had “strong concerns” and added she would like her grandchildren to enjoy the outdoor air minus the odor of manure.
Several people at the commissioners’ hearing spoke in favor of Duensing.
“We have to support this,” Gregg Wiedel said.
Trey Duensing, who is applying for the permit, has garnered the support of the Village of Byron, Thayer County Livestock Feeders, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Farm Bureau and other livestock producers.
The Farm Bureau said the operation will bring livestock jobs to the area.