LUSK – The Niobrara County Commissioners hosted a conference call with the Wyoming State Engineers Office (SEO) during the regular meeting on Tuesday.
The call, which was also included members of the county’s conservation board and the public, was intended to help answer some of the most important questions about water consumption in the prospective green hydrogen project by Nordex Acciona. Questions were pre-submitted to the SEO staff with an emphasis on “green areas” and the terminal effect of the project on the county’s water supply.
Chairman Pat Wade said since much of Niobrara’s business is ag related there is a concern of how the project’s need for water could cause permanent damage to many people’s source of income.
“If the damage is permanent with water, we drive people out of business or we radically change the way they do business,” Wade said.
One concern of the use of the water was how much of it would be put back into the water cycle since the molecules were being split for the hydrogen. Jeremy Manley with SEO explained the hydrogen turns back into water when it is burned which will happen in the process since the plan is to make fuel out of the hydrogen molecules. He also said he was not sure what the ratio of produced water reproduced without knowing exactly how much hydrogen is being used.
There were also questions about if green areas were the only places the project will be able to take water from. Members of SEO explained they were not necessarily limited to the green areas but going outside of them would take a lot of time and money.
The conservation board is hosting a meeting at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds with Mike Noonan of Aspen Consulting who represents Nordex Acciona on the project to answer more questions from the public. The meeting will be Jan. 11 at 1 p.m.
In other business, the commissioners approved resolutions for the start of the year including to county custom, culture and heritage in decision making regarding federal lands and supporting county custom, culture and heritage in decision making regarding state or private lands.
Wade said the resolutions stem back to the late 1980s and early ‘90s when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revised its resource management plan which appeared to be threatening to the county. The resolutions are meant to help the commissioners avoid any potential threats which relate to federal, state or private land.
A resolution was also passed to help pay for the E911 surcharge.
Along with appointing Wade as the voting member for the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, the commissioners also approved the designation of depository for public funds to Lusk State Bank, a banking disclosure statement from Treasurer Keri Thompson and the authorization of public funds.
Deputy County Attorney Doyle Davies spoke to the commissioners about the service agreement with DRU Consulting and Niobrara County for the Newcastle BLM resource management plan revision. Davies only concern was the absence of professional liability coverage in the contract which he said are often included.
The commissioners called Dru Palmer who said the she is asked about it a lot and said she does not include it because it is very expensive but often finds a way to work around it through an alternative agreement with her clients.
After signing the agreement, the commissioners amended the original amount of funding on the Homeland Security grant for a new generator by $34,000.
Emergency Management Coordinator said the additional funds were just approved and the signed agreement by the commissioners will be sent back to Homeland Security.
In other reports from department heads and elected officials, District Court Clerk Chrisanna Lund said there were a few minor repairs they hoped to get fixed in the courtroom including some repainting and a spackling issue off the walls in the judge’s chamber.
County Clerk Becky Freeman gave an update on the state’s redistricting process which saw some changes to Niobrara’s district after the committee agreed to a regional plan which keeps Weston County whole. The next redistricting meeting is set to take place on Jan.12 in Casper.
The commissioners also discussed upcoming meetings including the pre-bid meeting for the North Lance Creek Road project which will take place at 10 a.m. on Jan. 11. Also, the next management policy meeting will take place on Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. while the planning and zoning regulations meeting is set for Feb. 1 at 1:30 p.m.
The next commissioners meeting is Jan. 18 at 9 a.m. in the Niobrara County Courthouse.