Shasta County’s decisions regarding the Hatchet Ridge Wind Turbine Project will have a dramatic and permanent effect on the quality of life here in the Intermountain area.
The overriding problem is the proposed location. It’s hard to imagine a project site that would have greater visual impact. It is difficult to visualize how enormous these monster turbines would be. Their height of 428 feet is equivalent to a 40-story building. Think of up to 68 Transamerica Pyramids, complete with flashing red lights, sitting on Hatchet Ridge! Our committee, Save Burney’s Skyline, was formed by a diverse group of residents, both natives and newcomers, a few months ago. We have gathered hundreds of signatures in the past three weeks on a petition opposing the project in its present location. This clearly refutes the impression the developers are anxious to spread that the project enjoys popular support from residents.
Our first experience in talking to the developer was a simple request that the project be moved back to a point where it would not be visible from Burney. Unfortunately, this request was flatly rejected, based largely on a self-serving study produced by Babcock & Brown (B&B), which would own and develop the project. We’d be willing to bet that if the county makes moving the turbines a condition for issuing the permit, they will be moved.
There are technical issues as well. The increasing failure rate of these huge turbine blades from extreme weather has been well-documented in recent insurance industry publications and the Wall Street Journal. As we all know, there are dramatic extremes of weather on Hatchet Ridge.
Another major concern is the solvency of B&B, the Australian real-estate conglomerate. Recent reports in the Wall Street Journal document its near-collapse, with the stock falling from $37 per share to $7 in a single year, dropping 50 percent in the month of June alone. The project will hurt real estate values. A highly respected local real estate broker projects an overall price drop of 10 percent, and15 percent to 20 percent for homes with a direct ridge view. This financial impact far exceeds any potential tax revenues.
Many regular visitors to the region come to Burney to enjoy the beautiful, natural setting. Many of these long-term friends of the region will not be coming back if the turbines are built on the ridge. Both real estate and tourism are important, fundamental parts of the county’s long-range financial stability and we should not imperil them by proceeding with this project in the wrong location.
Another major concern is the effect on birds. In the winter and spring, hundreds of thousands of birds, including ducks, geese, swans and Sand Hill Cranes pass through the area, and many families of eagles live with us year-round. We will not know how many of these magnificent creatures will perish in the turbine blades until their dead bodies are counted.
Time is running out. A public planning commission meeting is scheduled to be held in Burney on Thursday. As one of our members said at an early meeting, “Don’t we have the responsibility to preserve the natural beauty and character of the Intermountain area, not just for this generation, but also for other generations to follow?” He was right. If you agree and would like to help, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
23 July 2008
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