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Wind energy project gets crucial OK; desert residents concerned  

A wind project that would add dozens of 327-foot turbines in and around Palm Springs moved forward Wednesday when the county approved turbines on one of the project’s three parcels.

The Riverside County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the Dillon Wind project with its associated variances for unincorporated county land north of Palm Springs and west of Desert Hot Springs.

PPM Energy, based in Oregon, wants to erect about 45 wind turbines on the three rural parcels, but nearby residents say they are concerned about the potential for spoiled views, noise, declining home values and bird deaths. Some say they will appeal Wednesday’s decision.

“We know that not everyone agrees about the benefits of wind energy,” Andy Linehan, wind permitting director for PPM Energy, said after the heated meeting. “We hope that when they see it happen, they’ll find it’s not the horrible thing they think it is.”

The planning commission’s vote gave final approval for 620 acres east of Highway 62 and south of Two Bunch Palms Trail, although the decision could be appealed. The commission recommended approval for a second 690-acre parcel south of Two Bunch Palms Trail and west of Indian Avenue, but the county Board of Supervisors will make the final decision because it involves a zoning change.

The project’s third 200-acre parcel would be in the city of Palm Springs, which has not voted yet on the proposal.

PPM representatives say the project will cause minimal harm to wildlife, provide renewable and clean energy and take advantage of the area’s unique resources.

The planning commission postponed a vote on the project at its April 18 meeting after receiving a last-minute letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that requested more thorough studies of possible bird deaths.

County officials said Wednesday they had resolved that conflict, but residents said they were still worried about the environmental impact of adding another wind farm to the San Gorgonio Pass, which already has thousands of turbines.

One resident called the windmills “meat grinders.” Several people said they had seen birds and bats disappear as more turbines have gone up.

“You are relying on studies done by scientists and biologists employed by the windmill company,” said Michele McNeill, who lives near the proposed project. “How impartial can they be?”

By Julia Glick

The Press-Enterprise

pe.com

16 May 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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