ELKO – Elko County Commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to include their support of a commercial wind project near Jackpot in their comments on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s draft Jarbidge Resource Management Plan.
The comment deadline for the plan is Jan. 31.
The BLM’s preferred alternative puts the best wind areas off limits due to concerns about sensitive species such as sage grouse, said Laurie Lickley from Renewable Energy Systems Americas.
If that alternative is selected, the project would probably have to be scrapped, she said.
Commissioners have heard presentations from RES Americas in the past about the China Mountain Wind Project. The project would span both Elko and Twin Falls counties and include up to 200 wind turbines producing as much as 400 megawatts of power.
About one-fourth of the project would be in Elko County, about 20 miles west of Jackpot.
The project, which has been in the planning stages for several years, would be on BLM, state and private lands. About 70 percent of the project area is public land and 15-20 percent is private land, Lickley said.
Under the project, China Mountain Wind LLC and NV Energy has a multi-million dollar Sage Grouse Conservation Plan “designed specifically to protect the sage grouse from any potential negative impacts associated with the China Mountain Wind Project,” according to a fact sheet about the project.
Meghan Brown, executive director of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, said the settlement agreement has an anti-grazing tone.
Lickley said not a lot of research has been done about wind energy and the impact on sage grouse, so funds will be used to conduct research.
“I think you’ll find that sage hens will like camping under those windmills more than anything else,” Commissioner Demar Dahl said.
Commissioner Warren Russell said he’s all for alternative energy and in his opinion, “the sage grouse issue is not an issue.”
Former assemblyman John Carpenter said the wind project won’t be too beneficial for counties because of tax abatements.
“The Legislature just went too far on these abatements,” he said.
During their Wednesday meeting, commissioners also:
• Unanimously appointed Robin Barton to the Jackpot Town Advisory Board for a term that will end in January 2013.
• Unanimously approved two requests for roadway dedications – one in the Spring Creek/Lamoille area for public use but not county maintenance, and another on Lower Lamoille Road.
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