FAIRFIELD – Solano County has declined to ban electricity-generating wind turbines from the secondary protection area of Suisun Marsh, despite the urgings of some regulatory agencies and environmental groups.
No turbines are in this secondary protection zone, though one project is proposed. Solano County will continue to consider such proposals on a case-by-case basis.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday reaffirmed this policy by a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Mike Reagan, Jim Spering and John Vasquez voted yes and Supervisors Linda Seifert and Barbara Kondylis voted no.
Suisun Marsh is more than 111,000 acres protected by the state and is home to variety of waterfowl, birds, plants and mammals. The marsh has a primary protection area of 89,000 acres with wetlands and sloughs and a 22,500-acre secondary protection area with uplands.
No turbines are allowed in the primary zone. The recent debate focused on the possibility that turbines could be built in the secondary zone.
The Department of Fish and Game in a letter presented a number of reasons why turbines should be banned from all parts of the marsh. Turbines could alter the migration patterns of birds and bats, the letter said.
Agreeing was the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
“The uniquely valuable habitat and species of Suisun Marsh, as well as the evidence of high bird and bat mortality at nearby wind project sites, indicate that countywide prioritization of wind energy development anywhere in the marsh is inappropriate,” the Bay Conservation and Development Commission letter said.
Montezuma Wetlands LLC is considering building turbines in the marsh secondary zone near Collinsville. James Levine of the company wrote that available data doesn’t support concluding that any turbines in the secondary zone would pose an unacceptable risk to waterfowl and shorebirds.
“It would seem that the appropriate way to evaluate potential effects is on a case-by-case basis through detailed, site-specific environmental review that would in any case be required to authorize a wind farm,” Levine wrote.
Spering saw no reason to change the existing rules that allow the county to either approve or turn down a proposed project. Opponents talked about negative effects that might happen if wind turbines get built in the secondary marsh, but had no data, he said.
Under existing rules, proposed projects must still go through environmental reviews, Spering said Friday.
“They have to go through all the regulatory agencies,” he said. “That review process is very stringent.”
Seifert said the county should have heeded the request of the regulatory agencies to impose the ban.
“We have virtually all the trustworthy experts saying it’s a bad decision to allow it,” Seifert said. “I personally believe those are the people on whom we should rely and trust and, unless there’s a good reason not to do so, accept their recommendation.”
Solano County still won’t necessarily have the last word on proposed wind turbine projects in the secondary marsh zone. Its Suisun Marsh permit decisions can be appealed to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
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