A 339-foot-tall wind turbine received the go-ahead from the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, despite concerns about its effects on wildlife.
The board approved 4-1 the use permit at its meeting Tuesday for the CEMEX project east of Madison and effectively denied an appeal made primarily by those wanting to preserve open space.
Part of the approval required the county to monitor the environmental effects and use the project as a “test” for the county and wind energy.
“We’re all in favor of green power but we don’t want it to be here or there,” said Supervisor Mike McGowan. “… There aren’t a lot of places left where there isn’t an impact on anything.”
The turbine will provide one megawatt of electricity to CEMEX gravel mining operations along Cache Creek and reduce CEMEX’s reliance on other energy by 85 percent, according to studies. The project will be east of Interstate 505 and north of Highway 16.
The Planning Commission initially approved by a 5-2 vote the use permit on Oct. 27.
Within 15 days of that meeting, however, the Yolo Audubon Society, Tuleyome, Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk and Citizens Preserving Yolo County filed an appeal.
One of their main issues was the location, which originally was 410 feet from Cache Creek. Appellants were concerned about effects to the Cache Creek wetlands and Swainson hawk habitat.
CEMEX decided to move the turbine to a site 500 feet from the creek, in response to Planning Commission concerns.
Later, after a meeting with the groups appealing the permit, CEMEX also voluntarily agreed to move the turbine about a 1/2 mile from Cache Creek.
At the supervisors meeting, appellants suggested at least a 30-day extension to allow more time to look at the new location and potential biological effects. The groups also wanted to look at alternative sites.
“Siting this thing in a riparian corridor is the worst possible place to put it,” said Chad Roberts, conversation chairman of the Yolo Audubon Society.
Supervisor Jim Provenza agreed with the appellants on the 30-day extension and made a motion to postpone the decision until the January meeting. However, his motion was not seconded. Provenza ended up being the sole vote against the CEMEX use permit.
While bats could be harmed from the wind turbine, most of the concern was regarding the endangered Swainson’s hawk.
Eric Parfey, principal planner for Planning and Public Works, said he consulted with the Department of Fish and Game regarding how to make up for losses of Swainson’s hawk.
“This new location … was a step in the right direction and mitigates some impacts of Swainson’s hawk,” Parfey said. “(Fish and Game) will be advising the applicant to apply for an incidental take permit.”
An incidental take permit gives some assurance to CEMEX as it will have less legal responsibility if hawks were killed. As a result, Fish and Game would be monitoring the hawk.
“A single turbine will not result in the death of the Swainson’s hawk species,” said David Morrison, assistant director of Planning and Public Works.
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