RENO – On Tuesday, the Washoe County Planning Commission approved more than 20 amendments to conditions defining the Virginia Peak Wind Project to be built in Palomino Valley.
At its monthly meeting, the planning commission addressed amendments to the special-use permit that project developer Nevada Wind requested be reviewed. The original permit was approved by the commission on Feb. 4, 2009. At the meeting, commissioners approved an amendment to restart the three-year, special-use permit’s time limit. This will allow the project’s developer, Nevada Wind, to use the permit until October 2013.
Only two residents spoke out against the project.
“I say build this project in the original time you said that you could build it, or come back with a plan that doesn’t contain 78 amendments to build it,” said Peter Schmalzer, a Spanish Springs resident.
Washoe County Senior Planner Trevor Lloyd presented the amendments to the commission. He said that of the 21 conditions to be changed, many of the updates were to comply with the revised Washoe County Code Article 326, Wind Machines. The code enforces rules in regards to setback from existing structures, road maintenance, environmental impacts and safety regulations.
Lloyd said most of the amendments had to do with language as well as address turbine layout, road development and ask for an on-site well system. The Virginia Peak Wind Project plans to install more than 40 turbines across more than 3,700 acres of land.
Rancho Mirage, Calif., resident Dan Poppers said the amendments do not do enough to comply with the code and to mitigate disturbances to his 98-acre property in the Pah Rah Range, in which Nevada Wind wanted to put a road through.
“In my original protest, I identified eight potential items that could create a disturbance to my property,” Poppers said. “Mr. Lloyd and (Cynthia) Albright did not address one of those potential disturbances.”
Poppers requested that Nevada Wind be in contact with the residents within the project’s immediate surroundings and keep them informed in writing.
“We will have 78 conditions that we will be required to comply with before getting a grading permit and moving forward,” said Albright, who represents Nevada Wind through Stantec Consulting Services, Inc.“It was really important to the applicants to achieve clarity for the project before moving forward. Nevada Wind is making a considerable effort to be a good neighbor.”
Planning Commissioner Vaughn Hartung asked Carlson about the environmental impacts of the project.
“I am a little concerned that there are 11 nesting Eagles in the area,” Hartung said. “I am sure you are aware, that if for whatever reason one of those eagles runs into the turbine, you have now committed a federal offense by killing an eagle.”
Carlson said precedent has been set about bird kills.
“We have met with Bob Williams, the head of U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, three weeks ago,” Carlson said. “We have spoke with him about the issue that you just brought up. That issue was brought up by a competitor that did a survey. In our survey, we found two nesting eagles. We have spoke with Williams to conduct a survey to find out if it is 11 or two.
“There have been no wind farms that have been signed or shut down because of killing a bird,” Carlson added. “Right now the law is being interpreted that it is to be determined by the U.S. (Department of) Fish and Wildlife. There are a lot of issues out there that we are trying to get our arms around. We are working with fish and wildlife to mitigate that issue.
“If we don’t have an agreement with U.S. (Department of) Fish and Wildlife and an agreement with staff, then we don’t move forward,” Carlson concluded.
After less than an hour of discussing the project, the planning commission unanimously voted to approve the amendments and allow Nevada Wind to move forward with the Virginia Peak Wind Project.
“I am very disappointed that they didn’t address the issues I presented,” Poppers said.
Poppers also brought up issues of resident safety in the winter in regards to ice forms being ejected from the spinning turbines.
“My requests were reasonable and they appeared to be ignored,” Poppers said.
People in opposition to the project and amendments approved at Tuesday’s meeting can file an appeal with the county before Oct. 15. Any appeals will be heard and action will be taken by the Washoe County Board of Commissioners.
For more information, visit www.co.washoe.nv.us.
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