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Ferndale residents say ‘no’ to wind energy farm

The residents who spoke at Thursday night’s Ferndale City Council meeting made it clear that they didn’t want a wind farm – or the construction it would bring – as their neighbor.

About 90 residents filled Ferndale City Hall, with many crying foul over the proposed Shell WindEnergy project on Bear River Ridge. Residents kept reiterating that they thought the project was a “done deal” being forced upon the picturesque Victorian Village, despite project manager Pana Ratana’s assurances that the proposal continues to be scrutinized by various state and local agencies.

Ratana, a business development advisor for Shell WindEnergy, said the wind farm needs community support and that if the community does not want the farm, “then we obviously don’t have a project.”

The company hopes to hold an open house early next year with answers to many transportation concerns brought up at meetings in Rio Dell and Ferndale. Ratana said having a wind farm nearby has many benefits, including millions of investment dollars from Shell over the next 20 years.

He anticipates a need for 120 full-time employees during construction and six to 12 full-time employees for maintenance of the farm. Additionally, Shell plans to develop community partnerships, including education programs on alternative energy and outreach to first responders. Shell Wind will need to upgrade the area’s infrastructure to increase the capacity by 50 megawatts – enough power to service
15,000 homes.

The project would use up to 25 wind turbines along the ridge south of Ferndale. The turbines and towers would need to be transported up to the ridge, possibly through town. Construction to assemble the farm would take six to eight months once the equipment is brought on site, and any roads used will be restored or improved after construction, according to Shell representatives.

Residents expressed concern about construction noise and the addition of large trucks to the slew that already shake the houses along Main and Fifth streets. Many also spoke about the visual impact, light pollution for the night sky and the farm’s effect on property values.

Ratana said Shell Wind has done visual projections of how visible the towers would be from various locations in the area, including Main Street and Fernbridge. He said the towers would not be visible from Main Street and would have a minimal impact to the view from Fernbridge.

A Loleta resident said the farm would be entirely visible from Loleta.

The company has been studying the site since 2004 and hopes to have the farm up and running by late 2014 if it can obtain approval from the various agencies, including the Humboldt County Planning Commission and the California Coastal Commission.

First District Supervisor Jimmy Smith said residents have multiple venues to express their concerns. On the county side, residents can weigh in on the project during the planning commission process. If the project goes through, it can be appealed to the board of supervisors.

”What you say counts. There is a process, and we’re all going to be a part of it,” he said.