After listening to those supporting the Arizona Audubon appeal to add a condition to the special use permit for the Red Horse 2 wind farm, Cochise County Board of Supervisors member Richard Searle suggested six new conditions, which fellow board members approved, leaving the Audubon appeal to be denied, but still accomplished.
During Tuesday’s meeting, speaking on behalf of Arizona Audubon, Tice Supplee, director of bird conservation, said that the purpose of the appeal was not to stop the 51-megawatt wind farm. Arizona Audubon supports alternative energy sources.
All Audubon members want is to ensure, through an added condition to the permit, that Torch Renewable Energy, LLC, work closely with Arizona Game and Fish (AZGF) on continuing studies of the protected bald and golden eagles, avian and bat populations, and other possible wildlife and environmental impacts, Supplee said. AZGF has no regulatory powers and following the agency’s requirements are only “voluntary.” Supplee added that the proposed condition would make the continuation of studies regulated and formal.
Searle’s modifications accomplished that, and more.
Searle stated his recommendations as: “The applicant shall submit the preliminary screening and pre-construction study plan to AZGF with a copy sent to the county; continue its environmental monitoring program and studies and submit findings to AZGF and a copy to the county; use commercially reasonable efforts to reduce any potential negative impacts to avian species, specifically eagles, and bat species; develop an invasive weed control plan which will be provided to AZGF and the county; and install no more lighting than required by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
Though county planning staff asked for $3 million cash up front to cover any costs for road repair or reconstruction, Searle’s sixth suggestion was to change that to cash or bond.
He also said he had visited the site and believed that the turbines would be “visually nonexistent” in the rural, unpopulated area north of I-10 locally known as Allen Flats on State Trust Land.
Supervisor Ann English thought that the county was duplicating requirements of other agencies. She said she didn’t understand “why the public wants the county involved,” when there are no biologists and other specialists on staff to look over the studies as they are provided.
“How will we know what they say is correct,” English asked. “Why do we need to require what other agencies require?”
“I think we can improve on what the commission determined in April,” replied Searle.
Supervisor Pat Call asked Killberg if he would accept Searle’s conditions and he replied, “Yes.”
Call also said in taking with AZGF staff he was satisfied with the interaction taking place and added that there was substantial support for the project in Benson, Willcox and even Bowie.
I’m excited about going forward with it,” Call added.
In order to approve Searle’s new conditions, deputy civil county attorney David Fifer said the supervisors needed to deny the Arizona Audubon appeal and approve the modifications as suggested.
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