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Health, Science & Environment

Intel seeks wetlands permit approval to start construction in Licking County

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Project Cardinal Isolated Wetlands Permit
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EMH&T identified over 40 wetlands in MBJ Holdings LLC's application. The wetlands do not fall under federal jurisdiction and will undergo technical review.

Updated: May 20, 2022, 10:53 AM, ET

Construction of Intel’s two semiconductor facilities could start this summer, assuming it receives an isolated wetlands permit from the Ohio EPA. The facilities will span almost 1,000 acres and will swallow up some 15 acres of wetlands.

Intel’s proposed site in Jersey Township is in the middle of Clover Valley Road, Mink Street and Green Chapel Road. Some work has started on Jug Street and the road is closed on both ends so access is prohibited.

 Proposed location of Intel's two chip fabs near New Albany.
Project Cardinal Isolated Wetlands Permit
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Proposed location of Intel's two chip fabs near New Albany.

But before Intel can break ground on the $20 billion project that is slated to will create 7,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent positions, it needs to be approved for that permit from the Ohio EPA. That’s because the project will destroy some wetlands.

MBJ Holdings LLC is a subsidiary of real estate developer New Albany Company, which was started by L Brands founder Les Wexner and Jack Kessler to develop New Albany. It submitted the application that was drafted by EHM&T engineers.

The application identifies over 40 isolated wetlands like marshes and swamps, five ponds and two streams that could be damaged from construction activity, such as any discharged materials on site.

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Project Cardinal Isolated Wetlands Permit
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One of two alternative plans for Intel's industrial park.

Ty Sauer and his mother Cheryl Fenton operate a farm about four miles from Intel's proposed site. Some of these wetlands are formed from drainage by farm activity. Fenton questioned how that will change.

“This area has a lot of clay soil which doesn’t drain well. So all of this entire area has to be drained,” she said.

Fenton said construction of any kind typically disrupts the underground tiling to move water out of its farm land.

“Drainage is very important," she said. "So every time something is built it impacts something else. "You could be doing your job over here, but you could be affecting your farmer next door.”

What are developers and the engineers who drafted the plan saying about concerns like that?

The engineering company EHM&T declined to interview. But in a statement sent to WOSU, they said “alignment with Ohio EPA standards is our priority and a necessary component of responsible development.”

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Project Cardinal Isolated Wetlands Permit Application
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The Ohio EPA requires what’s called compensatory mitigation. This simply means, that whatever is damaged must be restored or rehabilitated. In this case, the EPA said “the applicants are required to fulfill a greater than ‘1 for 1’ mitigation and wetlands replacement.”

There’s many ways to achieve this. The company is opting for what’s known as an in-lieu fee mitigation program. That’s where a company pays a non-profit or government organization to offset these damages.

In this case it’s the Stream and Wetlands Foundation in Lancaster. Since there is about 14.6 acres of wetlands, it will pay the foundation up to $792,000 for that acreage or "credits" to address those damages.

The foundation did not respond by airtime.

There is a public comment period happening through June 1. People can submit written testimony or they could attend the EPA’s public meeting next Tuesday at Jersey Baptist Church on Morse Road. There will be a presentation about the project and a chance for people to ask questions.

The EPA must consider the technical, economic, social and environmental aspects of the project when making a decision.

Find the application in its entirety here.

Corrected: May 20, 2022 at 10:53 AM EDT
This story originally identified Deb Sauer along with Ty Sauer as one of the operators of a farm near the Intel site. The farm is actually operated by Ty Sauer and his mother Cheryl Fenton.

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