Plymouth County Vision 2023 | News –

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Updated: January 13, 2023 @ 7:01 am

Summit Carbon Solutions vice president of government and public affairs Jake Ketzner speaks to landowners and other stakeholders at an information meeting held on April 7 in Le Mars.
Plymouth County came to terms on a road agreement with Invenergy. The agreement outlines replacement and damage costs to be paid incurred during the construction phase of wind projects.

Summit Carbon Solutions vice president of government and public affairs Jake Ketzner speaks to landowners and other stakeholders at an information meeting held on April 7 in Le Mars.
Plymouth County came to terms on a road agreement with Invenergy. The agreement outlines replacement and damage costs to be paid incurred during the construction phase of wind projects.
REGIONAL—Plymouth County’s central topic pertaining to its economic future also might be its most controversial one.
Two companies, Summit Carbon Solutions and Heartland Greenway, have been seeking landowner agreements for pipeline rights of way for the installation of pipe that will transport liquefied carbon dioxide to a field site in North Dakota where it will be stored underground.
The Summit Carbon pipeline will cross five states and is expected to cover 2,000 miles and cost $4.5 billion.
The need for carbon sequestration is viewed as a necessity by environmental advocates and scientists to prevent carbon dioxide created during the refining process for ethanol from entering the atmosphere where it will contribute to increases in global temperatures.
As more states and countries are looking for renewable fuel sources with a low carbon score, the ethanol industry is searching for ways to capture carbon dioxide to lower its carbon score.
Locally owned, rural ethanol plants are looking for ways to stay competitive against other ethanol plants in the battle for the lowest carbon scores, and the pipeline is viewed as the best option to do that. Of the roughly 200 ethanol plants in the United States, 32 will be on Summit’s pipeline.
The Plymouth County Board of Supervisors when asked recently to speak on the topic of carbon sequestration pipelines stated a position of neutrality.
“The routes are laid out, the companies are just moving ahead with trying to purchase rights of way,” said supervisor John Meis of Le Mars. “We’ve addressed our concerns with the state by letter.”
Jesse Harris, director of public affairs with Summit Carbon Solutions, was much more eager to address the future of carbon sequestration in the county.
“We are making significant progress advancing our project in Plymouth County and across Iowa,” Harris said. “In Plymouth County, the company has secured easement agreements with local landowners for more than 70 percent of the proposed route.”
Statewide, the company has partnered with more than 950 landowners to sign 1,650 easement agreements.
One reason Harris thinks there has been a largely favorable response from cooperating landowners is the outreach efforts by Summit.
“We held an informational meeting and an open house meeting in Plymouth County, and those were followed up with one-on-one meetings with county landowners in the path of the route,” he said. “Our project will open new economic opportunities for facilities like Plymouth Energy in Merrill as it will allow the plant to sell its product at a premium in the growing number of states and counties that have adopted low carbon fuel standards.”
Of course, there are landowners in the pipeline’s path that either oppose it altogether or oppose having no say in whether a pipeline is routed through their property, despite that the depth of the pipeline can be adjusted based on landowner needs or in some cases moved to cater to the property owner’s future plans.
Fiber optics
Premier Communications, a telecommunications service provider for northwest Iowa, has announced plans to install fiber throughout Plymouth County. The investment is expected to provide customers with state-of-the-art communications technology through a collaborative effort between Premier Communications, Plymouth County and the state of Iowa.
It is projected that fiber optics will be installed along 430 miles of rural area surrounding Le Mars and Merrill, along with the exchanges of Struble, Brunsville and Craig.
“Premier has a strong history of innovation,” said Ryan Boone, chief executive officer of Premier Communications. “We are always looking ahead, anticipating the technology needs of the future. We feel that this fiber optic technology will provide incredible benefits to our customers in Plymouth County for years to come.”
The project, which totals $21 million in investments, will allow Premier to offer the latest products and services at the fastest speeds.
In addition to $2.4 million of its own money, Premier received a U.S. Department of Agriculture Broadband Reconnect grant in 2019 in the amount of $7.2 million with supplemental funding from the state of Iowa and Plymouth County.
The total contributions for the project will allow for service to be provided to an additional 1,300 locations. Plymouth County contributed $2.44 million in July of 2021 from its federal allocation of American Rescue Plan Act money, with fiber-optic identified as a permissible use of the funding.
County leaders acknowledged the deal provides access to high-speed internet and other communications services Plymouth County residents would not likely been able to acquire any other way.
“The federal government specifically identified rural fiber optic as a legitimate use of ARPA funds,” said Don Kass of Remsen, chairman of the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors.
“Citizens of Plymouth County probably would never have gotten served were it not for the project,” said board member Gary Horton of Akron.
“Without collaboration, there wouldn’t be enough revenue to support the project,” said Plymouth County attorney Darin Raymond.
The project will happen in two phases.
The first phase began with installation in rural Le Mars, Merrill and a portion of Struble in the spring of 2022 and was completed late this year.
The second phase will include Brunsville, Craig and the remainder of Struble, beginning in the spring of 2023 with anticipated completion in early 2024.
Wind turbines
Looking toward the future the county is expecting the siting of additional wind farms that provide landowners with another source of income.
“We’re producing enough wind energy that if it were all used within the state’s borders, we would be energy independent,” said supervisor Craig Anderson of Merrill. “We support farmers having the opportunity to make additional income off of their land.”
One challenge presented by further wind development is to figure out how to pay for road maintenance and remediation during the construction phase of each new project as cranes and other heavy equipment take their toll on the thoroughfares used to access the installation sites.
As a result, when Invenergy approached the county to permit the project sited northeast of Remsen, the county insisted upon an agreement addressing the cost of road repair.
“The road agreement was most important during the construction of the wind turbine farm,” said county engineer Tom Rohe. “Once the construction is complete, the maintenance of the roadway is similar to what existed before the turbines were built. At that point we only see service trucks entering the windmill sites, not heavy construction equipment nor the volume of traffic which existed during the construction phase.”
Road maintenance agreements for the construction phase of wind energy projects address maintenance costs and prevents the county from incurring those costs.
The wind turbines provide farming landowners the opportunity for an additional revenue stream not tied to rainfall.
LE MARS—Community leaders in Le Mars are applying the adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” with an eye cast toward the future.
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