OCOTILLO – Resident Jim Pelley moved to Ocotillo because he loves the desert.
He can look out any of his windows and see the vast space, the mountains in the surrounding area.
“I moved out here to retire and live out my life,” he said. “Now I have to decide whether I can stay here.”
Pelley’s problem comes in the form of windmills proposed to surround the community, blocking off that view and causing other impacts, he said. He and other residents are working to understand what environmental impacts government agencies say the project will bring and how he can express his feelings about it.
Pelley was among the residents who came out to learn more and review a draft environmental report for the controversial wind project proposed in the area.
The Ocotillo Express project is a 465-megawatt wind farm on almost 12,500 acres of mostly Bureau of Land Management land. It is estimated to generate enough energy to power 140,000 homes.
The proposed project includes 155 wind turbines, an operations office and an energy substation.
The company developing the project, Pattern Energy, has taken the community’s concerns and addressed them, said project manager Glen Hodges. For example, the residents expressed problems with the cables criss-crossing the land so the company will instead bury the cables underground. Pattern has also agreed to not use the water from the local aquifer.
In addition, the project will bring a lot to the community, which includes a billion dollars in investment to the local area and jobs.
The BLM and Imperial County planning department hosted the meeting that drew a crowd of more than 80 people to discuss the joint environmental reports.
The meeting was to present the draft environmental report to the public so that they could see if all the points were addressed, said Jeff Childers with the bureau’s California Desert District Office.
While discussion initially began by talking about the project and the environmental review process, the night wound down with some complaining about the format of the event.
It’s like they’re trying to suppress public comment, said Donna Tisdale, a member of Protect Our Community Foundation and a former Brawley resident.
“People want to speak,” she said. “They want to ask questions.”
Carmen Lucas, a member of a San Diego Indian tribe, agreed, adding that she sees it as “un-American.”
“That’s telling us to shut up in my opinion,” she said.
The meeting was set up the way it was so that people had to submit written comment, said Childers. That way those responding will be able to accurately answer questions posed with less confusion.
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