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County sends request for study regarding solar project

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Columbia County Supervisor Denise Brusveen speaks on Wednesday about the resolution requesting an environmental impact study be done on the area of a proposed large solar project.

Columbia County officials have sent a request to a state agency to do an environmental impact study on the land being considered for a large solar project.

This is another step the Columbia County Board is taking in an attempt to take action on two commercial solar projects planned on prime farmland within the county. The resolution will be sent to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) and added to the application for the High Noon Solar Project.

The resolution passed on Wednesday morning with three opposing votes. One of those opposing votes came from Supervisor Tess Carr, who called the environmental impact study a “bureaucratic process” that could take up to two years. She asked the board to consider other options instead of the environmental study.

Supervisor Denise Brusveen said she wrote the resolution in the last few days to meet an end-of-the-year deadline for public input. Corporate Council Joe Ruf explained that the resolution will be added to the other public input the PSC receives regarding the High Noon Solar Project.

Ruf added that by passing the resolution, it is not a guarantee that the PSC will follow through and do an environmental impact study on the project area. The study covers the towns of Arlington, Hampden, Leeds and Lowville.

The resolution was first introduced by the Planning and Zoning Committee at a meeting earlier on Wednesday morning. It states that the study is necessary due to “unknown environmental impacts from large-scale solar farms.”

Brusveen outlined five concerns in the resolution, but said she could have added many more with all the research she had done on the topic. Some of those concerns include disturbed wetlands leading to flooding; soil erosion; and damage to drainage tiles.

“This resolution does our part,” Brusveen said.

A group of concerned citizens has continued to attend county board meetings and utilize the public input section to voice their opposition to the pair of solar projects proposed in Columbia County.

The High Noon Solar Project, being developed by Invenergy, is a proposed 300-megawatt project with a 165-megawatt battery storage system sitting on about 2,057 acres of land in the towns of Arlington, Hampden, Leeds and Lowville.

The Langdon Mills Solar Project, funded by Samsung C&T, is a proposed 200 megawatt project on 2,300 acres in the towns of Cambria and Courtland.

At the November board meeting there were presentations by Invenergy and Samsung to address some of the concerns. During that meeting, citizens outlined a plethora of concerns spanning from the loss of prime farmland, decrease in property value, panels being a fire hazard and simply being an eyesore in the community.

A number of the citizens who spoke at that meeting also spoke on Wednesday before the board voted to approve the request for an environmental study. One of those was Larry Wells.

“Please pass this. We need a study done on this,” Wells said.

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