A wind energy project that is expected to create power for 47,000 homes, employ an estimated 260 workers during construction and create 15 permanent jobs has been approved by the Bureau of Land Management.
The project would be located approximately 11 miles east of the City of Tehachapi and three miles northwest of the town of Mojave and will encompass 1,999 acres of public lands. A 12.5 mile generation interconnection transmission line also is proposed to connect the project to Southern California Edison’s Wind Hub Substation.
Alta Windpower, a subsidiary of Terra-Gen Power, LLC, received permission to develop 593 acres on adjacent private land from Kern County in January.
According to a news release issued late Friday, May 22, the BLM worked with Terra-Gen to minimize the project’s footprint. Originally 106 turbines were proposed; 51 have been authorized.
Efforts to reach a Terra-Gen spokesperson following the news release on May 22 were not immediately successful.
What is known is that as part of the BLM’s consideration of the project, Terra-Gen proposed multiple efforts to avoid the potential of Condor and Golden Eagle mortality related to the project.
A key component of the BLM’s approval is a biological opinion issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the California Condor.
As USFWS Director Daniel Ashe told a Los Angeles Times reporter earlier this month, the agency has let the BLM know that the “take” of a single condor over the 30-year lease will not be considered a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
According to the news release, “in the unlikely event that a condor is struck by a turbine blade, the BLM will require Alta Windpower to cease day-time operations and implement additional measures to ensure that the project does not pose any further threat to condors.”
The BLM said that the project will utilize “cutting-edge technology” to detect and avoid impacts to the California Condors and Golden Eagles.
“Today’s approval of the Alta East Wind Project builds upon the U.S. Department of the Interior’s commitment to expand renewable energy on public lands in a responsible way,” said Jim Kenna, the BLM’s California State Director. “Not only does this project create good jobs and generate clean and reliable power, but we’ve also worked closely with the company and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the protection of eagles and California Condors.”
Kern County required similar protections.
“This is a positive step as we continue to support the conservation and recovery of condors,” said Ren Lohoefener, regional director for the FWS’s Pacific Southwest Region. “This project provides a basis for future consultations and an opportunity to engage other renewable energy companies and stakeholders with best practices that support condor recovery.”
As a further mitigation measure, Terra-Gen has committed to contributing to the Condor Recovery Program to help fund and implement a lead abatement program. Ingesting lead from spent ammunition is the single biggest cause of wild condor deaths, the BLM said.
Terra-Gen’s contribution will also help fund research to further resolve potential wind energy and condor conflict, and other appropriate recovery actions for the 30-year life of the project.
For golden eagles, Terra-Gen has applied for a take permit from the FWS, and the BLM is requiring the implementation of a comprehensive Eagle Conservation Plan.
“In the unlikely event that an eagle is struck by a turbine blade prior to Alta Windpower obtaining a take permit, the BLM will require Alta Windpower to implement additional measures to ensure that this project does not pose any further threat until such permit is issued,” the news release states.
The Record of Decision, right-of-way grant, fact sheet and map for the Alta East Wind Energy Project are available http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest/alta_east_wind_project.html.
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