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Friends of Sand Canyon oppose wind project

Approximately 75 community members attended a meeting of The Friends of Sand Canyon held at Dr. Beverly Billingsley’s barn on July 9 to get an update on the status of possible windmill construction in their area.

It was reported that Helo, LLC plans to move forward with the project in the Sand Canyon area and is proceeding with an environmental impact report.

The Kern County Planning and Community Development Dept. issued a Notice of Preparation of EIR last October and received comments on what should be included.

As described in the NOP by the county, the Helo proposal would develop two projects, probably using up to 17 very large turbines.

Although turbines are visible on the hills across Highway 58 to the south of Sand Canyon, none have yet been developed in the canyon which is home to Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, Buddhist monatery, donkey rescue, shooting range and more than 100 homes along with numerous undeveloped residential properties.

At the July 9 meeting opponents of the project expressed thanks to the City of Tehachapi for including the Friends of Sand Canyon in its letter to the Kern County Planning Commission voicing objections to the intrusion of the wind projects on the local communities.

The Tehachapi City Council also was opposed to the proposed Pahnamid wind project south of the city. Terra Gen announced last month that it has withdrawn its county application for that project.

Representatives of Helo, LLC, which has proposed wind development on property it owns in the Sand Canyon area, held an informal informational meeting in February attended by more nearly 100 people – mostly canyon residents opposed to the project.

Richard Redoglia, a director of Helo, LLC, was in Tehachapi last week and said the San Diego firm is “engaged in a dialogue with the county and local residents to ensure that we are addressing any valid concerns of the interested parties, while bringing another successful renewable energy project to the Tehachapi area.”

Redoglia said the company is completing studies that are required as part of the EIR process.

When the county completes the draft EIR, it will be released for public comment and be the subject of a public hearing. The project cannot proceed until a zone change and final EIR are approved by the county.

Redoglia said he believes advancements in technology will help alleviate many of the concerns of canyon residents.

“The Tehachapi area, as we all know, has been designated as a wind resource for the state of California. Southern California Edison is investing upwards of $1.4 billion to build the necessary transmission to take advantage of the valuable wind and solar resources that Tehachapi and the surrounding areas possess,” Redoglia said. “Kern County has also called for upwards of 10,000 MW of renewable power to be contracted for by 2015. The continued development of renewable power will bring significant tax revenues, high quality jobs and recurring business to local merchants in the town, the county and the state.”

He noted that the “Sand Canyon area already has a significant number of wind turbines on its surrounding ridges and a well-developed transmission system already in place.”

Organizers at the July 9 meeting of The Friends of Sand Canyon encouraged opponents to continue to write letters to the county planning commission and the board of supervisors opposing the project.

The group plans to voice its opposition through speaking to the media including radio and TV stations as well as newspapers as far away as Los Angeles.

Billingsley said, “We’re going to be the squeaking wheel and hopefully it gets some grease.”

Tehachapi News Editor Claudia Elliott contributed to this report.