December 6, 2012

State agency could review Suisun Marsh wind energy laws

By Barry Eberling | Daily Republic | December 06, 2012 |

FAIRFIELD – A state agency that oversees Suisun Marsh remains concerned that energy-producing wind turbines could be built in the upland areas of the marsh.

The Bay Conservation and Development Commission on Thursday will discuss launching a review of Suisun Marsh protection laws to address emerging issues such as energy and transportation development. It meets at 1 p.m. at the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Suisun Marsh is a state-protected area south of Suisun City with about 115,000 acres of wetlands and uplands. It is the largest contiguous estuarine marsh in the nation and is home to 221 types of birds, 45 types of animals and 40 types of fish.

Solano County has about 800 wind turbines in the Montezuma Hills. They are all outside of the secondary Suisun Marsh uplands protection zone. However, a property owner has expressed interest in building turbines on the edge of the marsh in the protected upland area.

Bay Conservation and Development Commission officials have concerns rising out of consultations they did with the state Department of Fish and Game. That agency said turbines in the protected marsh upland areas could alter migration patterns for birds and bats and that turbines could kill waterfowl.

Solano County earlier this year changed its own Suisun Marsh protection laws to be consistent with its 2008 General Plan update. That update in-and-of-itself had nothing to do with wind turbines, which have long been allowed in upland areas under existing marsh laws, even though none have been built.

The state commission asked the county to make still more changes to the marsh protection laws and to ban the turbines from the secondary zone. The county Board of Supervisors on Aug. 28 declined by a 3-2 vote.

Supervisor Jim Spering said during the meeting that no data exists on the negative effects wind turbines might cause in the secondary marsh zone. Existing marsh laws allow the county to either approve or turn down requests to put up turbines, he said.

“They have to go through all the regulatory agencies,” Spering said. “The process is very stringent.”

Now the proposed county marsh law changes to be consistent with the 2008 General Plan are going to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. An agency report recommends that the commission approve the county’s adopted changes, which include such things as new land use classifications.

But there’s still the issue of the wind turbine change that the county refused to make.

If the commission changed the state Suisun Marsh Protection Plan’s policies on energy development in the marsh, the commission could then ask Solano County to amend its local marsh plan to do the same. If Solano County refused, the commission could seek legislative authority to make the change, a commission report said.

In addition, commission staff recommends reassessing the state Suisun Marsh Protection Plan in light of the new Delta Stewardship Council’s jurisdiction over the marsh and some initiatives in the state’s draft plans to reshape the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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