A wind farm near Ocotillo took a step forward Wednesday morning as the Ocotillo Expressway’s request for three meteorological towers was approved unanimously.
The three almost 200-foot high towers will make their temporary home near Ocotillo, with one west of Imperial Highway, one adjacent to Shell Canyon Road and one south of Highway 98. They were approved with an 8-0 vote by the county’s Planning Commission.
Two commissioners, Sergio Cabanas and Josie Godinez, were not present.
The towers will be used to measure wind velocity and direction, said county Planner Kenny Taylor. They will be temporary, in place for three years.
The towers are limited in height at 197 feet, Taylor said.
Each will be higher than any cell tower in the Ocotillo area, said Rudy Schaffner, chairman of the commission. Most other structures are capped at about 80 feet.
While some in the audience called for the commission to not approve the towers as they are part of a proposed wind farm, Schaffner said putting in the meteorological towers isn’t a guarantee there will be wind turbines.
“We do have to look at the project at hand,” he said.
However, some in the audience disagreed.
“I know you’re looking at (meteorological) towers,” said Ocotillo resident Edith Harmon. “Met. towers are a preliminary for 280 turbines.”
She told the commission about health problems associated with wind turbines, like the flicker from sun on the turbines affecting those prone to seizures, she said. There are a lot of elderly people and those with medical conditions, and their only option would be to move out, she said.
Fellow resident Barbara Hill added that the turbines and even meteorological tower would take up water, which is a very precious resource to residents, who rely on natural underground reservoirs for water.
“We’ve got to draw the line,” she said.
She called for the commission to not approve the plans as she said that action would help the people of Ocotillo.
“You keep putting in these towers, and it does disturb our desert,” she said.
However, the meteorological towers will not use water, said Glenn Hodges, representing the project. There won’t be a concrete base for the towers, but rather a steel plate.
The wind turbines will use a little water during construction as those would need concrete bases, and some water may be required to keep dust down, he said. However, there are other methods to reduce dust, and after the construction is completed, there won’t be a real need to use much water.
For Commissioner Dennis Bergh, the towers are not a final project but rather will gather information for whether a wind turbine project would even work near Ocotillo.
“It’s just a test, and we have three years to work on this,” Bergh said.
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