Disappointed with Holliday Creek Solar Project | News, Sports, Jobs
As many of you know, the Holliday Creek Solar Project is breaking new ground. As a member of this community which owns land adjacent to the project, I was very disappointed with the way it was managed. The Holliday Creek Project is expected to be built on approximately 1,000 acres of agricultural land in Webster County. Those of us who have land around it certainly have a right to be concerned.
The environmental and agricultural impact of this project has not been properly analyzed. I am concerned about the damage that the heat and dust from the solar farm could have on crop yields. Equally worrying for all of us in the surrounding area is the impact of the project on tiling and drainage.
As Palo Alto County Zoning Board Chairman Dean Gunderson noted in his June 27, 2021 letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register, “Solar and wind commercial projects may well create problems for farms adjacent to a project. Solar projects can obstruct and / or completely eliminate future drainage improvements on some land.
The National Center for Agricultural Law warns, “Installing solar modules and trenches could disrupt underground and surface drainage systems, and underground drainage tiles under the development site could be inaccessible for future repairs.” National Agricultural Law Center, Farmland Owner’s Guide to Solar Leasing, p. 12, https://farmoffice.osu.edu/sites/aglaw/files/sitelibrary/Farmland_Owner’s_ Guide_to_Solar Leasing.pdf. Damage to the drainage system could flood nearby fields.
Other communities expressed similar fears when solar farms moved into their neighborhoods. For example, residents of a township in Ohio have expressed concerns about a nearby solar park project, fearing their property could be threatened by runoff and flooding the project could cause. Mackenzi Klemannn, Potential Drainage Problems Affect Birch Solar Opponents, Lima News (May 13, 2021), https: www.limaohio.com/news/459610/potential-drainage-problems-concern-birch-solar-opponents.
Residents said they plan to take the case to the Ohio Supreme Court and have reported suspected flooding at other solar parks in the state.
Although they repeatedly heard of environmental concerns, those involved in the project declined to conduct an environmental assessment to actually explore the impact the project will have on the surrounding farming community, on our friends and neighbors. Instead, without any detailed analysis, Holliday Creek told the Iowa Utilities Board that it did not predict any significant effects on agricultural production and uses. Given the apparent risks in these projects, more should have been done. Our farmland is too precious to be put at risk without further examination.
I am also concerned about whether the potential conflicts of interest have been fully disclosed by those who are supposed to protect the public interest. It is certainly worrying to see officials voting, or even just defending, projects where family members can benefit financially from the progress of the project. I don’t think the public was sufficiently assured that there was no conflict of interest or that people with such interests were not involved.
On the same issue of transparency, the decommissioning plan for the project has been filed confidentially with the Iowa Utilities Board. The question is, what happens when the solar project no longer works? What happens to our precious natural resources? Because we have not received a copy of the decommissioning plan, we wonder how they plan to shut down operations and return the land to agricultural use. What will happen to the worn panels, both at the end of the farm and when the panels need to be replaced or replaced? If the soil is not properly returned to a state useful for agriculture, I fear that the value of the surrounding soil will be affected.
I don’t think this project was handled in the best interest of the public. Much more should have been done to ensure that environmental, drainage and agricultural risks were assessed and mitigated. While I hope no harm will be done to the community or to myself, I plan to keep a close eye on this project in the future. As long as I need to assert my rights in court, I am ready to do so. Shouldn’t we have done more to make sure it wasn’t necessary? Someone dropped the ball!
Richard Stark is a resident of the Woolstock area and President of Iowa Commodities Ltd. at Fort Dodge.