The East Bay Regional Parks District will appeal the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ March 24 approval of a three-year extension for operation of 828 old-style wind turbines in the Altamont, which are owned by Altamont Wind Inc. (AWI).
The EBRPD vote on April 21 was unanimous. The board was responding to published studies by the county Scientific Review Committee that showed that hundreds more raptors would be saved by installing new turbines this year, as originally required of AWI.
Further, the EBRPD board said that Golden Eagles roost and nest in their Brushy Peak park, so it’s consistent for the board to want to protect raptors throughout the Altamont area.
Board member Ayn Wieskamp of Livermore said, “I hope we are providing the county supervisors with enough information to take a second look at this and say ‘no.’ Wind power is not going away, but we can make good decisions to protect the raptors.”
Director John Sutter of Oakland referred to the county Scientific Review Committee’s report that said hundreds more raptors would be saved by adhering to this year’s deadline to replace the wind turbines.
“This is a basic decision. Do we pay attention to what the science is telling us? Do we look at the facts? I think we do.”
By a 3 to 2 vote, the supervisors approved the three-year extension for the old turbines, instead of requiring a switch to 18 new turbines with enough power to replace the old ones. Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley sympathized with AWI president Rick Koebbe’s statements that as a small business in the Altamont, he did not have the capital to undertake the replacement immediately, unlike neighboring firms that are part of huge national operators.
Supervisor Rick Valle talked abut the preservation of union jobs. There was concern that AWI might go out of business.
Supervisors Keith Carsons and Wilma Chan voted against the extension.
The directors felt that AWI had a long notice period to get the work done, said EBRPD spokesperson Carolyn Jones.
The County Supervisors are set to revisit the issue May 5.
Altamont Pass is home to some of the oldest, and most plentiful, wind turbines in North America. The area is also a favorite spot for raptors, who roost at nearby Brushy Peak, Morgan Territory, Ohlone and other regional parks, and feast on the plethora of mice and ground squirrels in the area.
Doug Bell, Wildlife Program Manager for the Park District, said the health of the East Bay raptor population is at stake.
“We know, at least for golden eagles, the mortality rate is unsustainable,” he said, noting that about 10,000 birds, including 2,000 raptors, die annually at Altamont Pass wind farms. “What we don’t know is the long-term sustainability of other birds in the area. … The cumulative effect of wind turbines in other parts of California, the West, and beyond is a serious concern.’”
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