Due to damage from the August 10 derecho, the Duane Arnold Energy Center located outside of Palo has been shut down early and will have a financial impact on Benton County, according to Scott Hansen with Benton County Emergency Management.

The plant was originally planned to shut down in October, but instead closed early after the cooling towers were damaged by the severe wind storm. Alliant Energy in 2018 announced it would be buying electricity from wind and gas sources, previously buying 70 percent of the plant’s electricity according to a piece in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Duane Arnold Energy Center was commissioned in February of 1975, providing power to Alliant Energy for eastern Iowa and employing as many as 550 to 600 locals over the years. Local counties were contracted to act as emergency response in the event of fires, release of radioactive material at the plant. In exchange, DAEC provided funds to pay for a portion of these county’s Emergency Management budget, including Benton County.

“It’s been a great relationship that goes back as far as 1981,” Hansen said. “When Duane Arnold was built, a 10-mile emergency planning zone was established, which requires a lot of local emergency response. That includes a lot of planning and training to go along with supporting in the case of a radioactive material release.”

The closure of DAEC will have a $74,000 impact on the 2021-21 fiscal year budget for Benton County Emergency Management, Hansen announced to the Benton County Board of Supervisors last week. The facility is currently decommissioning the plant and the fuel is being drained until June of 2021. Funding for Benton County’s Emergency Management budget will continue until then.

“This utility has been a great asset for Benton County over the years,” Steve Meyer, Benton County Emergency Commission Chairman said. “Thanks to this partnership, we have put together training and exercises that have made Emergency Management and the Emergency Commission better. Our people know their roles and our county Board of Supervisors know how critical our roles are in disaster management.”

Hansen and Meyer anticipate the county will find additional ways to make up for the lost funding in the near future and that Emergency Management will continue “as is” in Benton County. Hansen noted local residents working at DAEC will lose “well-paying positions”, which will serve as a secondary economic impact to the area.