Progress reported in wind-farm dispute

Progress reported in wind-farm dispute

WATSEKA — The firm that owns the Settlers Trail Wind Farm in Iroquois County said Thursday that progress is being made to resolve an ongoing legal dispute with Sheldon Township.

Sheldon Township Highway Commissioner James Yana filed a lawsuit in July against Chicago-based E.On Climate & Renewables North America LLC, doing business as Settlers Trail Wind Farm LLC. The lawsuit seeks $1.8 million in damages, alleging that the company failed to adequately restore township roads used to build the 94-turbine wind farm in 2011.

After settlement negotiations stalled, the township then tried in late September to draw $1.8 million from a letter of credit that had been provided as security under its contract with E.On. The firm, however, filed a motion earlier this month in Iroquois County Circuit Court seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the township from drawing on the letter of credit.

While another court hearing remains set for Nov. 7, Elon Hasson, director of external affairs for E.On, indicated Thursday that the dispute may be coming to an end soon.

"We are encouraged with the progress we are making working together with Sheldon Township toward a resolution on road upgrades," Hasson said in an email. "Sheldon Township, an independent engineer and Settlers Trail have conducted inspections in the field and are scheduled to complete those road inspections next week. Once resolution is reached on identification of all areas of concern, Settlers Trail will begin road upgrades as soon as practicable."

Yana, in his lawsuit, claims the road restoration work remains "deficient over an approximately five-mile radius." A road-use agreement between the township and E.On had required E.On to repair all roads damaged during construction to their "preconstruction condition" or better, but Yana said his numerous attempts to have E.On address the damage over the course of two years "yielded no restoration work."

Settlement negotiations have been ongoing since the lawsuit was filed, said Paul Bowman, senior vice president of Settlers Trail Wind Farm LLC, in an Oct. 4 affidavit.

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