by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- With a sense more of accomplishment and relief then fanfare, the Huerfano County Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend the County Commission approve the final draft of the HB 1041 regulations.
The regulations govern areas and activities of state interest in the county. that deal with the use of water and how use and change of water rights affects the county’s culture and agricultural heritage.
The new guidelines govern activities which bring about changes in reservoir operations and decreed water rights within Huerfano County. Activities which may affect the quality and quantity of water bearing aquifers under the county including alluvial, confined, and unconfined aquifers both tributary and non-tributary are also regulated.
Commissioner Larry Mapes felt that the section of the regulations addressing environmental issues that affect wildlife and water movement such as seeps may be too onerous for applicants.
Those areas of state concern would require applicants to hire consultants to do the studies necessary to fulfill the regulation’s requirements.
After discussing other details in the regulations, the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the regulations 5-0. They now go to the County Commission for possible adoption.
In other business the Planning Commission considered a conditional use permit application filed by New Centennial Power to construct a nine megawatt wind farm to be located in North Huerfano County near the substation on Interstate 25, northeast of Walsenburg.
The utility has a 25-year power purchase agreement with San Isabel Electric Association to buy the electricity generated by the five 1.8 megawatt wind turbines and sell it to Huerfano County residents. The turbines will be manufactured by Vestas.
The Planning Commission asked about water needed to build the foundation and footings for the wind turbines. The general manager for New Centennial Power, Christine Schaefer, told the commission she would take whatever water she could find.“We’ve talked with some people in Pueblo. I think we’re going to do what’s most economical and what works best.”
CUP 11-027 was recommended for approval on a 5-0 vote. It will now go before the county commission on Aug. 3.
The Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC) spoke with the Planning Commission about a proposed Community Forum. This was a condition attached to the approved permit for Shell’s operations. CHC spokesperson Ann Wilkinson submitted her letter of intent for one of the seats on the core group that will select other members for the forum.
During the previous planning meeting on July 12, Shell Oil put forward their proposal for the Community Forum just minutes before the meeting, leaving the CHC no time to prepare a reply.
The proposal put forward by CHC on July 26 suggested an equal number of members be appointed by Shell and CHC with the Planning Commission selecting members from names offered.
Because the Forum will be mediated, members of the press will be barred from the meetings, with approved press releases being the only communication available to the press. This shuts the public out of a process of discussion that affects all residents of Huerfano County.
When asked about the aspect of a closed door meeting, Wilkinson said the forum was a mediated forum. “Mediation is built on a spirit of trust. It is an open and frank discussion. Most mediated meetings don’t record the discussion.”