The Alameda County East County Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) has extended the comment period for a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) that addresses a request to add three years to the conditional use permits for 828 Altamont wind turbines.
The board at its meeting Dec. 18 directed staff to extend the comment period at least one week, and perhaps as much as two weeks, beyond the previous deadline of Jan. 2. Staff will look at how the extension would fit other deadlines for the application.
The turbines are owned by AWI. The firm’s founder, Rick, told the BZA that he would like the decision to fit with his need for sufficent time to negotiate with a customer to buy power.
PG&E apparently has no need for any more power suppliers for the next couple of years, so Koebbe is negotiating with another buyer.
BZA staff told the members that setting a meeting in February, perhaps on Feb. 12, depending on scheduling of other county planning meetings, would still allow for an appeal to the board of supervisors by their March planning meeting, assuming that an appeal is filed by either side. By that time, staff replies to EIR comments would be back to commenters. The BZA could then act on Koebbe’s request for the three-year permit extensions.
Koebbe said that the March supervisors’ meeting would be the latest time that could work for him, if there were an appeal.
AWI originally operated 920 turbines, but phased out the 92 turbines most responsible for raptor deaths.
As for the remaining 828 turbines, Koebbe agreed to eliminate them, and re-power them with only a few turbines. They are large and modern, able to put out high levels of power with apparently higher raptor safety. Originally, all of the old ones were to be phased out by Oct. 31, 2015, and the new turbines installed.
Now, Koebbe is looking for an extension to 2018. Koebbe said that in addition to finding a new power customer, he must negotiate for transmission lines. However, after a year of talks, was told by a regulator that he would have to start the process all over again.
At the Dec. 18 meeting, BZA members heard comments on the DSEIR from East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) wildlife program manager Doug Bell. EBRPD owns open space land in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA). Bell said that the park agency is very interested in the APWRA, especially concerning birds and bats. Four threatened species live there: American kestrel, red-tailed hawk, golden eagle and burrowing owl.
Bell said the supplemental EIR is inadequate, and open to challenge. Its references to the baseline condition for birds in the Altamont contained errors, he said. EBRPD will submit further comments, he added.
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