Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 27, 2014

Dam project still being considered at Oakland Mills

Jun 11, 2014

By MEGAN COOPER

Mt. Pleasant News

The Oakland Mills hydroelectric dam project is still making progress, even though it doesn’t seem like it.

“On April 16, we met with Paul Roos, he’s the designer for the Amjet turbines and he did some more measurements,” said Executive Director of Henry County Conservation John Pullis during Monday’s Henry County Conservation Board meeting. “At one point, we thought we were going to excavate some bedrock in order to put the turbines in, but from his (Roos) measurements, it doesn’t appear that we will have to.”

According to Pullis, at one point, Oakland Mills was going to be a test site for the turbines, but that will not happen, as Oakland Mills does not have a license to become a test site.

“We would have to have our license in place and that just won’t happen,” said Pullis. “We don’t want to put the money forward right now because we are dealing with tax dollars and we can’t be loose with that money. Roos understands completely about our position and he thinks we are doing it correctly.

“After the meeting with Roos I felt more comfortable about this whole project. It’s uncharted territory, and I think we are doing it the right way. So as far as the update on that project, that’s what we’ve gained,” said Pullis.

Clarence “Zip” Mettenburg, a local proponent for the hydroelectric project, approached the board during the meeting with information that he had received.

“At the last meeting I submitted two ideas for the budget. At that meeting it was mentioned to not purchase all units immediately (five units were proposed at an earlier meeting),” said Mettenburg. “A unit could be purchased, then we get the revenue from that and also the rebate, which is part of the business plan, and we can purchase another unit. It’s a way to get the turbines.”

Mettenburg spoke with Roos on Monday and asked why the Department of Energy had stopped funding phase two and phase three of the Amjet turbine project and was told it was because Roos didn’t have investors lined up for phase three.

“Them stopping those phases is why we stopped our revenue study,” said Roos. “A peer review was then done over the turbines and after the review as completed the conclusion was that the Amjet project is the only project that has a promsing design, so the Department of Energy has reinstated phase two and Amjet will be building its first full-size unit that will be available for installation in 2015.

“It will be a test unit and it will be located in St. Paul, Minn., at the Mississippi River Dam One. After I found that out I asked Paul (Roos) if he had the money to build a second unit and he said yes. That’s an opportunity for Oakland Mills right there. We would just need to get an exemption license or a full license to put it in. Of course there will be work that needs to be done, but it’s an opportunity I would hate to miss,” said Mettenburg.

Mettenburg stated that all the technical reviews of the turbine system he has seen prove that there are no issues with the system and there are no questions that were raised that haven’t been answered.

“In the beginning they told us that the turbines would cost $300,000 a unit, but since then, another manufacturing company has come forward and the cost could be reduced,” explained Mettenburg. “I think this is an opportunity for us. I would like to encourage us to take this opportunity and start planning for a unit that might come available in a year or two.

“I am enthused that he has the money to build a unit, and to me it’s one of the most promising solutions in getting power to 20,000 dams in the U.S. We can be a part of that by a having a unit installed here,” finished Mettenburg.

After the discussion of the hydroelectric project, Pullis updated the board on the flood damage work that has been completed at Oakland Mills.

“We are finally getting to the end of it,” said Pullis. “Category A is finished and the paperwork has been sent in. We received the check from FEMA already and now we need to go through all the proper channels to finished up. We estimated the project to be at $20,222 but it came in at less than $18,000 so we were under budget.

“The Category G repairs were made and the only thing we need to do under that is get our new rule signs, once we are done with that, we can close that one out too. We are under budget on that project as well. Finally, Category C, which is the footbridge, work will begin on that in the fall. So, essentially, we are finished with FEMA now, once again,” Pullis explained.

During the meeting, Friends of Conservation representatives, Robb Perrenoud, Steve Mendenhall and Tina Myers approached the board and presented it with a check in the amount of $10,000, which will go towards the memorial patio project.

“We think it’s a great idea and we enjoy supporting this group,” said Perrenoud.

The memorial patio will have benches, a fire pit and a possibility of plaques that could be added to the seat wall for all the patrons who donate to the park. The fire pit, according to Pullis, could be used for outdoor cooking classes and family gatherings. The project is slated to being construction in July.

Cari Nicely, naturalist, informed the board that Oakland Mills is now the proud owners of six new birds.

“Kay Neumann from Saving Our Avian Resources (SOAR) provided us with six new birds,” said Nicely. “We have two, long-eared owls, which are very cute, two more red-tailed hawks and two, rough-legged hawks, which are residents of Iowa. They migrate here in the fall and winter and then in the spring they go to the arctic, which is their nesting site. They are absolutely gorgeous birds.”

Nicely also mentioned that the falcon is off display as of right now because of a broken foot and her fly-tying summer camp that was scheduled for today (Wednesday) is canceled.

“My summer camp sign up is not good,” Nicely said. “I’m not sure why no one is signing up. Maybe these kids have a zillion other options, I don’t know. We do have kids signed up for our fishing class on Friday, but there is only one class that has substantial numbers, other than that I don’t know.”

During the meeting Pullis also mentioned that beginning in July the board president and vice-president will change.

“Jim Onorato will become president and George Jaques will become vice-president,” Pullis said.

Lori Muntz is the current president and Jim Onorato is the current vice-president.

The Henry County Conservation Board will meet again in regular session on Monday, July 14, at 6 p.m. in the conservation office.

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