Power plant opposition surfaces in Crystal Lake

CRYSTAL LAKE – With village business suspended in Oakwood Hills, residents turned up in Crystal Lake to voice their opposition to a proposed power plant and urged Crystal Lake City Council members to do the same.

Wearing the official opposition color of red, residents from Oakwood Hills and surrounding areas approached Crystal Lake City Council members during the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting to encourage them to join the likes of state Rep. David McSweeney and state Sen. Dan Duffy in fighting against the $450 million, natural gas plant proposed for Oakwood Hills.

Bryan DeWitt told council members he was concerned with the 1.5 million gallons of water a day the plant is projected to use and the proximity of the plant to the school his children would attend.

"It's going to severely tax the water [supply] in the area," DeWitt said. "We get all our water from the well."

His wife also addressed the council, saying Oakwood Hills was a great change of pace from the Des Plaines home she once had that was subjected to constant noise from the nearby O'Hare Airport.

"You can hear the crickets ... you can see the stars," she said of the silence and view in Oakwood Hills, noting her concerns of the pollution a plant could bring.

Other residents also voiced concerns to the council before Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley addressed the speakers.

While not speaking for the council or city, Shepley said he personally had concerns about the project and commended the speakers and people of Oakwood Hills for uniting and delivering a strong message. He said he could not recall any issue in Crystal Lake or McHenry County that drew the amount of people the public hearings in Oakwood Hills attracted.

"You've certainly sent a clear message," Shepley said. "We hear you. We're your neighbors."

Developers have listed Crystal Lake as a key partner in their plans as the city is tapped to provide treated wastewater to the plant, along with Cary and Prairie Grove, to eliminate the need for drawing water from the deep-water aquifer. But Shepley said the city has only received a general letter from Oakwood Hills Village President Melanie Funk regarding the project.

Shepley said the only way the City Council could take an official stance on the project – whether for or against – is if residents requested the item be placed on an official agenda for a future meeting. He invited the speakers to make that request to city manager Gary Mayerhofer.

With top elected state officials and multiple organizations already against the project, Shepley said he was unsure if an official position from Crystal Lake would make much difference in the end.

"If all of you cannot convince the village of Oakwood Hills that this is not in the best interest ... I have hard time thinking that Crystal Lake will," he said.

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