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Nearly 150 attend Save Our Skyline rally

LUCERNE VALLEY • Many Milpas Highlands-area residents were caught off-guard when they recently discovered two large-scale energy projects could be built in their neighborhood.

But the residents – and others concerned about losing their current quality of life and seeing property values drop – are quickly making up for lost time.

“The people’s right to speak and be heard is sacred,” said State Senator Bob Dutton at Saturday’s Save Our Skyline rally at Pioneer Park in Lucerne Valley. “Clearly that’s not what happened here.”

Nearly 150 people showed up at the quickly organized event to learn about the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission and North Peak Wind projects. The North Peak Wind plan consists of as many as 71 wind turbines standing nearly 500-feet high. Southern California Edison’s Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project, which includes a substation, will be built to transport energy generated from wind and solar projects to other areas.

Opponents, including Dutton, Apple Valley Mayor Art Bishop, Bishop’s state assembly opponent Michelle Ambrozic and several other local leaders and politicians, say project applicants haven’t sufficiently notified area residents of their plans.

“They’re coming in, there are no rules and they are just dodging between the poles,” event organizer Lorrie Steely said.

Moreover, Steely said, Germany-based E.ON AG, which is developing the North Peak Wind project, is already facing two lawsuits in the United States. The lawsuits content that the turbines create noise, devalued property and possible health risks, she said.

“Suffice to say E.ON is not someone we want to move in our community as a new neighbor,” Steely said.

Lucerne Valley resident John Miller, an independent land appraiser hired by the Juniper Riviera County Water District to study the possible effects of the Coolwater-Lugo and North Peak Wind projects on property values, said such large-scale projects decrease property values, sometimes dramatically.

He compared five areas – Chino Hills, Oak Hills, Lytle Creek and Milpas Highlands (and “Flats”) – and discovered a definite trend in sales figures.

“Power lines are going to have a substantial impact on property value,” Miller said.

In Chino Hills, if power lines were on a homeowner’s property, values would be worth as much as 40 percent less. Power line-adjacent properties in Oak Hills saw a 10- to 25-percent decrease, and Lytle Creek saw values drop by as much as 50 percent for properties directly affected by power line development, Miller said.

But it’s not a matter of if or when Coolwater-Lugo and North Peak Wind, according to Miller.

“My finding is that they also have a very real impact on you today.”

One unscheduled speaker said the extreme heights of the new wind turbines will effectively create “no fly zones” anywhere they are built. As a result, firefighters would not be able to fight wildfires from the air.

“Without those airplanes to save us, you will burn,” he said.

Bishop, a vocal opponent who has shared his concerns at local meetings throughout the area, is fearful the projects will forever alter the landscape.

“This is some of God’s most beautiful country,” Bishop said. “The roads (to the wind turbines) are going to scar this land. What about all the different animals and birds. What is going to happen to them?”

He also criticized project applicants for not adequately publicizing their plans.

“When are we going to have a public meeting?” Bishop asked. “We haven’t had one yet, and the project keeps moving forward.”

Speaker Jason Caudle, the Lancaster deputy city manager, said his city offered a viable, more environmentally-friendly alternative to the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission project. However, Lancaster’s offer was turned down, he said.

No rally speakers spoke in favor of the projects.

At times, Saturday’s event served as a pep rally.

Ambrozic, who was an unscheduled speaker, encouraged project opponents “to be strong.”

“I’ll be with you every step of the way,” she said.

Dutton said the matter is urgent.

“My advice to you is to act now,” Dutton said.

Bishop suggested people contact their elected officials – three times.

“We have to have the right to speak,” Bishop said. “We have to have the right to be heard.”

Steely, who introduced her committee members, said it’s imperative that rally attendees share what they know with anyone who will listen.

“Take a stand, open your mouth and speak,” Steely said.