County approves compost project

The demonstration site for composting at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has helped Carver County to reduce the waste produced by residents and businesses. It is the only site of its kind in Minnesota. (Submitted photo)
The demonstration site for composting at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has helped Carver County to reduce the waste produced by residents and businesses. It is the only site of its kind in Minnesota. (Submitted photo)

Residents affected by proposed solar garden, new power substation speak

By Melissa Priebe
[email protected]

On Tuesday, June 21, the Carver County Board heard public comment on energy issues and approved the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Joint Powers Agreement, among other actions.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency awarded a grant of $65,000 to Carver County to continue research and composting activities at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The project, which is referred to as the Source Separated Organics Demonstration Project, is a collaboration between Carver County, the Arboretum and Specialized Environmental Technologies, a private compost site operator. It involves operating a MPCA demonstration site, with the goals of finding cost-effective ways to expand composting and identifying environmental impacts on water that runs through compost facilities.

“We’ve worked with organics since 2007,” said Joe Enfield, Interim Environmental Services Department Manager. “Basically, we’re moving organics out of the waste stream and bringing it in with yard waste for composting, and coming up with a product.”

Under the new grant, two compost sites would be operated, the demonstration site at the Arboretum and a yard waste site in a location yet to be determined. While the yard waste site would accept brush, lawn clippings and leaves from local residents and businesses, the demonstration site would accept additional items, including food waste, coffee grounds, used pizza boxes and other compostable products.

Enfield said the project would give haulers the opportunity to have a convenient, cost-effective option for the disposal of source separated organics and yard waste.

“We have goals for waste diversion that we have to meet, mandated by the state,” said Enfield. “Organics comes in at approximately 30 percent of the waste stream they’ve dictated, so if we remove that from the waste stream, we’re increasing our numbers, and it’s a benefit for the county.”

Initiated in 2006, the composting project won several awards in 2008, including the Local Government Innovation Award and the Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention. The demonstration site has been open for business in the past, but the new grant funds would expand its operation, allowing additional testing and monitoring equipment to be installed. There are also plans to re-characterize the demonstration site, so that it can be permitted to operate beyond the time of the grant expiration in 2017.

“The Arboretum will end up with a permitted site, so they will begin to be able to compost their organics, which had to cease when the last portion of the project ended,” said Enfield. “A $65,000 grant will cover soil borings and monitoring wells at two sites.”

The grant is the fourth grant awarded to Carver County for composting activities, with previous grants funding the site development, equipment, testing and a part-time staff person.

The demonstration site at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is the only site in Minnesota where such research can be conducted. It’s research that officials hope will lead to the development of more cost-effective organic waste compost sites.

“We will have the first permitted site with the MPCA of our type, which makes them very happy,” said Enfield. “From the regulatory standpoint, the Pollution Control Agency and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are going to have more information to better understand the potential environmental concerns that could be with those sites,” said Enfield.

Carver County commissioners approved the MPCA Joint Powers Agreement connected to the project, pending the completion of the county’s contract review process. Enfield said soil boring would happen this summer, and facility maintenance might be needed, including improvements to the access road. With permission, he said the people working on the project are hoping to conduct the first round of water quality sampling in the fall.

Watertown Township solar garden

Wayne Hubin, of Watertown, and Kathy Anderson, of Mayer, spoke to the decision made during the meeting on Tuesday, June 7, to approve a Conditional Use Permit for a large-scale solar garden on a property north of Swede Lake. Hubin pointed out that two similar decisions were made on solar garden projects within three weeks, with drastically different results.

“When I look at these two recommendations, I’m mystified at how a result could come that did come: one denial and one approval,” said Hubin. “I would expect impartial decisions, not partial decisions like I see here.”

Anderson expressed frustration with the way the decision was handled, and asked that the minutes be amended to clearly show what transpired at the June 7 meeting.

“Although more information was brought in, there was a determination that nobody heard anything new,” she said. “When it came time to vote, there was no comment that the standards were met.”

Anderson said residents who live adjacent to the property, where a solar garden would operate for 25 years, had not decided whether or not they would appeal the decision.

Residents of Carver County have 60 days to file an appeal.

Power lines to Lake

Bavaria substation

Regarding a separate issue, more than 15 residents from Victoria attended the meeting to discuss the proposed overhead power lines for Xcel Energy, aligning with the new Lake Bavaria substation, located just south of the existing Minnesota Valley substation on County Road 11. Construction of the substation was slated to begin in May, after it was approved by Carver County and Laketown Township in 2015.

“The reason for the substation, according to Xcel, is they are providing below substandard service to the power grid, because the closest substations are in Waconia and Eden Prairie,” said Erik Lowe, of Victoria. “There is still, according to the map even on the permit, a small part of the power lines that juts down on part of the Woodlands neighborhood.”

The proposed new power lines would run up the west side of County Road 11, until County Road 18, then along the north side of County Road 18, past a few neighborhoods and Holy Family High School. Then the lines would jump over to the east side of Bavaria Road and continue to Rolling Acres Road.

“We all want a resident-friendly solution that’s going to provide sustainable and reliable energy to the Xcel customers that exist in Victoria, but also that’s going to be respectful to the property concerns of citizens that are going to have bear the brunt of those power lines, no matter where they go through,” said Lowe.

Lowe hoped to see a partnership form between residents, the county and Xcel Energy, so that all parties could arrive at a “win-win” solution.

Earlier this year, representatives from Xcel Energy said they hope to have the new electrical systems operational by October.

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