September 30, 2012

Protesters mourn ‘death of desert’

By CHELCEY ADAMI, Staff Writer | Imperial Valley Press | September 30, 2012 |

OCOTILLO – Protesters in grim reaper costumes stood silently holding signs early Saturday as 18-wheelers carrying wind turbine materials made hairpin turns off of Interstate 8 on their way to the construction site of a roughly $600 million wind energy project being built near Ocotillo.

The protesters held a mock funeral procession to mourn what they see as the loss of the Ocotillo desert, and “to demonstrate to the public that we are really unhappy with National Public Lands Day being celebrated in the face of destruction of many thousands of acres of land for land energy projects,” said Terry Weiner, Desert Protective Council projects coordinator.

The Bureau of Land Management “has effectively become the development arm of the U.S. Department of Interior by agreeing to sacrifice tens of thousands of acres of the public’s land for industrial energy development,” Weiner wrote in a release.

The grim reaper costumes worn Saturday morning represented BLM, Ocotillo resident Ima Walker said.

The majority of the protesters on Saturday were Ocotillo residents but some hailed from other parts of the Valley such as Holtville, El Centro or even as far as San Diego.

The roughly 40 protesters also varied in ages and backgrounds but all agreed that it’s critical to take part in protests such as the one Saturday.

“It’s very important because it’s not only showing BLM but also Pattern Energy and our government that we are against this type of project,” Walker said. “We’re a small town, mostly low-income, and I think they hit on these types of situations because they think we won’t retaliate or stand up.”

Pattern Energy is the company behind the Ocotillo Express LLC Wind Energy project.

Most protesters held signs displaying photos of the desert habitat that they feel is being destroyed by the energy project.

El Centro resident Anita Nicklen was one of the protesters out early Saturday.

“This project is completely wrong and it’s unethical to try and build these in this areas,” she said. “It’s our land and they’re building on public land. The desert is crying and weeping and bleeding.”

This is not the first time protesters have come out against the project, and it likely won’t be the last.

“We’re just going to continue and hopefully talk some sense into these people,” Walker said. “They’re going to realize there’s not enough wind in the area.”

Pattern Energy officials have said more than 80 wind turbines are expected to be erected as part of the project by the end of the year.

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