The Lassen County Board of Supervisors overturned a Nov. 7 decision by the Lassen County Planning Commission on Tuesday, Jan. 22, and approved the construction of a meteorological tower on private property on Fredonyer Peak near Eagle Lake.
The meteorological tower will collect wind data to help determine the feasibility of the Horse Lake Wind Project proposed by Invenergy Wind, Inc.
The tower will be erected on land owned by Joe Ochoterena. Invenergy already has received approval to put up three meteorological towers on Bureau of Land Management land in the immediate area.
According to the staff report presented to the supervisors, the tower will be nearly 200 feet tall and will rest on a 6-foot by 6-foot base held in place by two sets of guy wires. The county staff recommended 10 conditions that also were approved by the supervisors.
A number of other companies have erected similar towers throughout Lassen County and Northern California to collect data on wind and weather conditions.
The planning commission denied the permit application because the tower violated the “peace, morals and comfort of the public due to the negative aesthetic impact to Eagle Lake and the surrounding areas,” according to a report from the Lassen County Community Development Department presented to the supervisors.
Michael Jackson, an attorney for Invenergy, said there was no evidence the tower would violate the public’s peace, morals and comfort and the planning commission’s determination was “kind of a stretch.”
He said the meteorological towers and the proposed wind turbine project were not linked and were, in fact, “two independent actions.”
He said he believed the planning commission was anticipating something in the long run.
He said if the company couldn’t obtain approval for a meteorological tower, it certainly couldn’t expect to obtain approval for its wind turbines.
Ochoterena addressed the board during the public hearing and said his family has been ranching in Lassen County for more than 100 years. He asked the board to protect his private property rights.
That argument drew traction with the supervisors, especially Bob Pyle and Brian Dahle.
Dahle argued against a proposal by county staff that Invenergy share the data collected from the tower with the public.
No one spoke in opposition to the meteorological tower during the public hearing, but several local residents spoke in support.
Supervisor Jim Chapman said the county has a long history of supporting alternative energy sources and he thought the planning commission was “possibly jumping ahead on the debate” regarding the wind turbines.
Chapman also said local residents should realize most of the money raised by the project will go to the state, despite Invenergy’s projections of millions of dollars pouring into the local economy and tax coffers.
“I’ve gone around and I’ve listened to a lot of presentations,” Chapman said, “and had a lot of input, and that $51 million that supposedly will be generated by the Horse Lake Project, if it ever comes to fruition, depending on if this met tower actually sustains data wise what is potentially out there and stuff has been spent so many times it’s not even funny …
“Whatever dollars that will be generated by this project or any other project for that matter belongs to the state of California. What’s theirs is theirs and what’s ours is theirs when it comes down to the taxes. I think we need to appreciate that and understand that if we’re driven to support a project because it’s going to make this community fabulously wealthy, all I can say is, ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’ That won’t be the case.”
Chapman said the bulk of the money will be used by the state to replace revenue we already receive and the net result will be “kind of a wash.”
He added the local economy could get a boost from the jobs and the local spending by workers on the project, but that’s not what’s being sold to the community.
“When the false expectations are realized,” Chapman said, “that is it doesn’t happen, people are going to be unhappy, and I don’t blame them because they should be unhappy. That’s where we’re at with it. I’m a little bit concerned as we deliberate on these particular matters that this thing can take on a life of its own like that, and if it does, it will be to the great detriment of the community, and we can’t afford another detriment like that.”
29 January 2008
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