A subtle line blended into Burney’s backdrop, Hatchet Ridge could become an eye catcher if a line of 44 whirling wind turbines is put into place.
To some people, however, the project could be an eyesore.
“People are already talking about how ugly it is going to be,” said Sharon Elmore, cultural information officer for the Pit River Tribe.
She said she’s opposed to the Hatchet Ridge Wind Project because of the effects it would have on the view from Burney and cultural sites on the ridge, as well as animals that live and pass through the regrowing forest. The power project would be built on timberland leveled in the Fountain Fire in 1992.
Shasta County Department of Resource Management released a draft environmental impact report (EIR) earlier this month, vetting these and other issues. Included in the report were photo illustrations depicting views of what the wind turbines would look like from downtown Burney and from Highway 299 just west of town.
The proposed $206 million project would be built in six months to a year in 2009, according to Hatchet Ridge Wind LLC, the project developer.
Although the close to 6½-mile string of wind turbines would be built on once-forested land, the trees returning around it wouldn’t be trimmed to make room for the project, said Nichole Hughes, permitting specialist for Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Hatchet Ridge Wind’s parent company.
“They wouldn’t grow tall enough to interfere with the towers,” she said.
Including the turbines, the towers would range in height from 338 to 418 feet, according to the EIR.
While the project would change part of the view from town, the positives of the project outweigh the negatives, said Cindy Dodds, executive director of the nonprofit TriCounty Community Network.
“If it is only about aesthetics I could see where people would be troubled,” she said.
She said the project would provide pollution-free power and bring a fair amount of property tax revenue to the county. Hatchet Ridge Wind estimates Shasta County would get $30 million in tax payments over the first 25 years of the project.
But Elmore argues that the project’s effects on cultural sites and wildlife don’t make it worth the power and property taxes.
“Those areas are going to be closed off to the public, including our sacred sites,” she said.
She said a migratory trail, one used by American Indians for travel and vision quests, runs over Hatchet Ridge.
While the county is recommending that the project’s builders work with the tribe to preserve artifacts, if the wind towers are built, the impact on sites is significant and unavoidable, said Bill Walker, senior planner for Shasta County.
“There really isn’t a good way of mitigating for it,” he said.
Another effect the county said is unavoidable is the killing of birds clipped by the spinning turbines. Among those birds is the bald eagle, with the county estimating that one eagle every two to three years would be killed by the blades.
Elmore said she thinks that’s unacceptable and could be reason for calling off the project. She said she’s turned in her written comments on the EIR, which are due to the county by Jan. 28. But she said she is working on more of a response, as are others she knows.
“We have a lot of people that are upset right now,” she said.
Once the comment period closes, the EIR will go before the planning commission in February or March, Walker said. If the EIR is approved by the commission, they’ll then decide whether or not the project should be built.
By Dylan Darling
27 December 2007
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