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US Interior urges Iberdrola to cut size of California wind farm

The Obama administration is considering drastically reducing the size of a 200-MW wind project on federal lands near the Mexican border in San Diego County, California, in order to protect golden eagles.

Regulators for the US Bureau of Land Management plan to publish Tuesday in the federal register a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Iberdrola Renewables’ Tule Wind project that advises the company to reduce by 62 its number of turbines.

BLM must still publish a Final EIS, however, with the final determination for the project – publication typically takes place at least a few months after the publication of the DEIS.

BLM, which must grant a right-of-way approval in order for the project to be built on 280 acres of federal land, considered a number of alternatives to the project before determining that reducing the number of turbines from 138 to 76 would save more golden eagles.

“Although this alternative would substantially reduce the risk of golden eagle mortality, the risk of mortality due to collision with operating turbines by [a] golden eagle remains adverse and unmitigable due to the fact that the remaining turbines would continue to present risk, albeit with lower risk of collision to golden eagles foraging in the vicinity of the project,” BLM wrote in the DEIS.

But Iberdrola Renewables is “not even entertaining” the thought of reducing the number of turbines, said Jan Johnson, the company’s communication director.

“We are very firm in our belief the Tule project as proposed now is the right extent for the site,” Johnson said.

Iberdrola conducted an avian study over two years in the area in which researchers spotted only two golden eagles, Johnson said. She also said the environmental review set for publication Tuesday is just a draft and could still be changed.