The Kern County Planning and Community Development Department is waiting for studies from Helo Energy LLC, so it can hire a consultant to prepare the Environmental Impact Report on Helo’s proposed Sand Canyon wind turbine project.
“We don’t have the documents,” said Michael Hollier, the county planner assigned to the project. “We are waiting on the applicant.”
He said there were two possible consultants, “but no one on board (yet) to begin the EIR. We are waiting on their project studies.”
The environmental factors potentially affected by the project as identified in the department’s Oct. 28, 2010 Notice of Preparation are: aesthetics, biological resources, greenhouse gas emissions, transportation and traffic, cultural resources, hazards and hazardous materials, public services, air quality, geology and soils, hydrology and water quality, and noise.
The environmental factors not included in that checklist of potentially affected environmental factors are: land use and planning, population and housing, agriculture and forest resources, mineral resources, and recreation.
The NOP, under “Mandatory Findings of Significance,” indicates by a checked box that the Helo project could have a “potentially significant impact” on the environment and on human beings.
Local residents, who have organized opposition to the project under the banner Friends of Sand Canyon, said they have observed consultants carrying out studies near and on the 300-acre property at the mouth of Sand Canyon.
The property is divided into two sites.
Helo Energy proposes the construction of up to a maximum of 17 wind turbine generators not to exceed 500 feet in height. The construction project will employ about 50 people, the NOP says.
The proposal also calls for “a project substation or switchyard for each site to step up the voltage generated by the turbines to meet the electrical transmission system’s 56-kilovolt (Monolith line) or 230-kilovolt (high wind line) voltage.”
The county planners will not issue a recommendation regarding the project until the completion of the EIR and subsequent additional responses.
“Whether this project fits, we don’t know,” Hollier said. “We are sensitive to Sand Canyon residents. There are lots of questions to be answered before we get to a hearing.”
The county, he said, “works diligently to ensure concessions are made,” and no wind project has been approved as originally proposed.
Hollier said there are a number of projects proposed for Sand Canyon.
“Sand Canyon is the gateway to Jawbone,” Hollier said.
Jawbone, to the north, is the location of major wind turbine developments. Transmission lines to carry their power south to a substation in Tehachapi might be built through Sand Canyon.
Sand Canyon residents had heard that companies might use the process of eminent domain to build projects in their area.
“The county does not plan on issuing eminent domain on projects,” Hollier said. “Eminent domain is a bad word in this county. We don’t like going in that direction.”
However, he said, utility companies have existing rights of way granted by the state.
“The state concerns operate outside our knowledge and jurisdiction,” Hollier said.
He said the county had urged a representative of Helo Energy to meet with the residents and to be aware there are people in the neighborhood.
“Are you sure you know your neighbors?” he said they asked Helo.
Helo gathered addresses from the county assessor’s office and gave a short presentation for Sand Canyon residents Feb. 16 at West Park Community Center.
In turn, residents brought forth their concerns about flooding, visual impact, physical impact, emergency access and other issues.
The presenter, Michael McClary, a principal in Helo Energy, declined on April 27 and 29 to answer questions from the Tehachapi News about any aspect of the project or the company.
The company’s website is one page with an image of wind turbines and the message, “Coming soon.”
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