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Scoping meeting held regarding wind farm

LAKE COUNTY – Job creation, environmental impacts, tax allocations and more concerns were brought up by the public Thursday evening during a scoping meeting for a project to build a wind farm on Walker Ridge.

AltaGas is proposing to build about 29 wind turbines on Bureau of Land Management land north of Highway 20 straddling the county line of Lake and Colusa counties.

A number of citizens and representatives came to the meeting Thursday. People can comment on the plan of development until Oct. 13. Rich Burns of BLM said people who want to visit the planned project area can contact BLM staff to set up a trip to the proposed site. BLM and AltaGas also had a public meeting Friday in Colusa County.

Burns said the agencies are doing avian studies, botanical studies and cultural resource studies to determine the project’s possible impact. Public services considered in the project include, waste and wastewater, fire and emergency services, police, hospitals, public schools and solid waste.

The wind turbines would still allow for recreational use of the land in the project area.

Peter Eaton, director of project development for AltaGas, said the company has been working on this project for more than a year. The turbines are expected to generate about 70 megawatts of renewable energy that would supply electricity for 25,000 homes.

AltaGas chose the location because of the sufficient winds, nearby power transmission and road access,

Eaton said. The project area is about 8,000 acres but the footprint from 29 turbines would be much smaller. Eaton hopes to have construction complete in 2012.

The project would create 100 to 200 jobs during construction and two to eight permanent jobs during operation for maintenance.

“We will make an effort to engage local folks who are qualified as much as possible” for the jobs, Eaton said.

Victoria Brandon of the Sierra Club Lake Group said some of the problems with the project are impacts to bats, birds and rare plants along with grading of the road on serpentine soil.

“It’s almost a wild area,” Brandon said. “If you turn it into an industrial site it could permanently change the character.”

The group would like to see AltaGas look at alternative locations, such as at the Geysers.

“The number one priority for the Sierra Club is combating climate change,” Brandon said. “We are principal supporters of renewable energy projects.”

However, Brandon said the club addresses each project individually to determine whether it would have a positive or negative impact on the environment. The Sierra Club Lake Group will submit a letter to BLM on the project that addresses the issues.

“I hope members of the community educate themselves on what’s going on and take part in the process,” Brandon said.

Burns said developers will work on a scoping summary, and come up with a draft environmental impact study that will then go back into public comment. Next, staff will develop a final EIS and then federal agencies will take action on it.

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Comments on the plan can be sent to Bethney Lefebvre at the Ukiah BLM Field Office at 2550 N. State St. in Ukiah, 95482. People can call the office at 468-4000, fax comments to 468-4027 or e-mail them to ukiahwindeis@ca.blm.gov. Information on the project, including the plan of development can be found at http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ukiah/Walker_Ridge_Wind_Project.html.