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Public comment sought for project planned near Burney

A 6.5-mile stretch of wind turbines proposed for the Hatchet Ridge area, about 35 miles northeast of Redding, will be discussed at a public scoping session Wednesday.

Shasta County planners will host the meeting to find out what people want studied in an environmental impact report on the project, Senior Planner Bill Walker said.

The Hatchet Ridge Wind Project would build 42 to 68 three-blade wind turbines made of tubular steel towers. They would sit in areas replanted after the 1992 Fountain Fire.

The turbines would stand about 270 feet tall and surround Bunch Grass Lookout Road, north of Highway 299 and about 7 miles west of Burney. Mounted on the towers, the blade tips would reach about 420 feet tall.

The wind farm would produce about 100 megawatts of electricity at peak capacity and connect to existing transmission lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Several Burney residents have said they welcome the turbines as a supply of clean, earth-friendly energy.

The project would be a major tax contributor for Shasta County – perhaps its second-highest property tax payer, project manager Scott Piscitello has said.

So far, Walker said, three main concerns have surfaced:

the aesthetics of the off-white turbines on the ridgeline;

the propellers’ potential to kill birds, especially hawks and eagles; and

the Pit River Tribe’s desire to leave a sacred area alone.

In an August letter to the county, Pit River’s Cultural Information Officer Sharon Elmore wrote that development would affect Bunch Grass Mountain as a vision quest and power site.

“We will continue to oppose this project,” she wrote then.

Bunch Grass Mountain, at 5,500 feet, is outside the project’s northern boundary. Starting from the north edge of Highway 299, its turbines would stretch northwest along Bunch Grass Lookout Road, project maps show.

An initial study of the project outlined up to 49 approximately 500-foot-tall turbine units, but it appears shorter ones may work better for the applicant, Renewable Energy Systems America Developments Inc., Walker said.

“They’re looking at different sizes of wind turbines. And based on the sizes, they may have more than the original 49 turbines they proposed, or less,” he said.

Property owners within about a mile of the project received notices of the scoping meeting, but few live in the area, Walker said. Residents in and around Burney are closest, and notices were sent to local newspapers.

A draft of the EIR may be ready in June, Walker said.

“The consultants have already been working on it quite a bit, but this is another part of the process, getting the public’s input,” he said.

By Kimberly Ross

redding.com

21 April 2007