OCOTILLO – The approval of a 112-wind-turbine project set to be built west of here was appealed by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, a Viejas official confirmed.
“We filed our appeal and the (Imperial County) Board of Supervisors is going to be hearing the appeal,” said Bob Scheid, spokesman for the Viejas Band.
The appeal was filed Monday afternoon, with the hearing expected April 24.
The Ocotillo Express LLC Wind Energy Project was approved by the Imperial County Planning Commission on March 28 after a lengthy meeting.
Aside from the Viejas tribe, four other appeals were submitted to the Planning Department either Monday or Tuesday, said planning director Armando Villa.
Protect Our Community Foundation, Desert Protective Council, Laborers International Union of North America and the applicant, Pattern Energy, submitted appeals, he said.
The deadline to appeal was Tuesday, and the Planning Department is still analyzing the documentation, Villa said.
Most appeals list zoning violations and at the same time allege that biological and cultural impacts aren’t adequately addressed by the environmental impact report.
Opposition groups have long sustained that cultural and archaeological resources as well as wildlife will be permanently affected by the project.
Meanwhile, in its appeal, Pattern Energy calls for the board to clarify Imperial County’s jurisdiction for the land entitlement.
This comes as no turbines or towers would be built on county land, but rather on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, according to Villa.
However, the roads the project needs for its supporting activities would be located on county land, Villa said.
So it is to the Board of Supervisors to decide whether it will approve the project and, more important, if it is interested in holding jurisdiction, according to Villa.
There are more options for the board, he said, but these options are yet to be determined.
Villa also noted that the BLM has the final say on the matter.
In a written statement Pattern Energy’s senior developer said company officials “do not expect a delay from the appeal, and if the project is approved by the Board of Supervisors at the hearing on April 24th, we anticipate starting construction in May following final approvals by the BLM.”
And the BLM process is a separate process, according to Erin Curtis, spokeswoman for the BLM.
Curtis wasn’t familiar with the appeals process but she said that the BLM released the project’s final environmental impact statement on March 9.
BLM will make a decision on whether to grant Pattern Energy a right of way in no less than 30 days, she said.
“I don’t know at this point” when the record of decisions will be signed, Curtis said.
But even after a record of decision is signed by the BLM, Curtis said, Pattern Energy “still needs to get the permit from Imperial County.”
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