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DC BOA grants variance for corn drying and storage at ethanol plant

MENOMONIE — Dunn County farmers will now be able to sell their high-moisture corn to the ethanol plant between Boyceville and Wheeler.

The Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment has granted a variance for Big River Resources Boyceville LLC to build a corn dryer and grain elevators with a maximum height of 225 feet.

The Board of Adjustment held a public hearing on the application for a variance April 28.

The variance was necessary because of a 35-foot height restriction under Dunn County’s zoning code.

Brian Kieffer, plant manager at the ethanol plant, said the grain elevators would add storage for 200,000 bushels of corn, and the grain dryer would have a 10,000 bushel per hour grain-drying capacity.

Diane Morehouse, a member of the Board of Adjustment, asked about height restrictions from the  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) because of the Boyceville airport.

Kieffer said he was waiting for confirmation from the FAA to make sure the proposal meets the requirements, but it was his understanding that structures at the ethanol plant could have a maximum height of 250 feet.

Board of Adjustment member Tim Lienau wondered about lights on the new structures.

Aviation lights will be installed on the top, Kieffer said.

Adding the grain storage and grain drying will not mean that the ethanol plant can take more corn, but the plant will be able to take higher moisture corn, he noted.

Currently Big River Resources can take 17 percent moisture corn, but with the new equipment, the ethanol plant will be able to take corn with a moisture content of 25 to 30 percent, Kieffer said.

Having a corn dryer will mean that the ethanol plant will be able to take more corn at harvest time, he said.

Juliet Fox, chair of the Board of Adjustment, asked about noise complaints.

The ethanol plant maintains a noise complaint log, but no complaints have been filed in the last three or four years, Kieffer said.

The ethanol plant is fairly isolated with few neighbors close by, but the complaint log has been maintained to track any issues that may come up, he said.

The Board of Adjustment does not approve very many variances, but on the other hand, the ethanol plant is already operating under variances and has been allowed to go above the county’s height restrictions in the past, Fox said.

The Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved a variance for Big River Resources to expand with a grain drying and grain storage facility for a maximum height of 225 feet and subject to height restrictions set by the FAA.

In addition to Fox, Lienau, and Morehouse, Dorothy Enger and Phil Steans serve on the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Big River Resources produces 57 million gallons of ethanol annually, according to the company’s website.

The ethanol plant has been in operation since 2006 and uses 20 million bushels of corn every year and also produces 175,000 tons of livestock feed.