A last-minute letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prompted the Riverside County Planning Commission to postpone a vote Wednesday on dozens of 327-foot wind turbines proposed for land north of Palm Springs and west of Desert Hot Springs.
While many property owners spoke out against the project and commissioners unanimously decided to delay the vote until May 16, most commissioners expressed support for the project.
“Everyone seems to understand the need for renewable resources, but they want it down the road, in somebody else’s backyard,” Commissioner James Porras said after more than an hour of heated public comment at the meeting in La Quinta.
The May 16 meeting will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the Coachella Valley Water District’s Forbes Auditorium, 85-995 Avenue 52 in Coachella.
PPM Energy, an Oregon company with one wind farm near Palm Springs, proposes 45 wind turbines for three parcels totaling about 1,500 acres. The Dillon Wind Project would be north of Interstate 10, east of state Highway 62 and west of Indian Avenue.
County staff recommended approval of wind permits for the two parcels on unincorporated county land and several associated variances and rezoning measures.
If the Planning Commission votes yes on the permits, the easternmost 620-acre parcel along State Road 62 will be approved, unless opponents appeal the decision to the county Board of Supervisors, planners said. The supervisors must make the final decision on the 690-acre west parcel along Indian Avenue because it would require a zoning change.
County officials said they had just received a four-page letter from Fish and Wildlife, which was not made public until after the meeting. The letter criticizes the project’s environmental-impact report and is slated to be one of a few narrow topics to be discussed before a vote at the May 16 meeting. The commission said it will also take comment on potential bird deaths and setbacks around the turbines.
Most of the surrounding property owners who spoke Wednesday expressed concerns that the wind turbines would ruin mountain views, make loud noises, harm wildlife and bring down home values.
“These giant machines are going to be right in back of us. It’s not safe for our kids,” said Esperanza NuÃ±ez, who lives along Indian Avenue. “Even though we are low-income people, we have a right to peace and quiet.”
Desert Hot Springs passed a resolution in December opposing the project, and City Councilman Hank Hohenstein told commissioners Wednesday that the project constituted economic discrimination and environmental injustice.
But PPM officials said the only major negative impact would be to people’s views, and some people like the look of wind turbines.
“The world faces a crisis in global warming,” said Andy Linehan, permitting director for PPM Energy. “Dillon Wind represents a small example of the type of decisions we need to be making nationwide.”
By Julia Glick
18 April 2007