A proposal to harness coastal wind to create energy near Lompoc generated concerns about birds, noise and preservation of the rural community in Miguelito Canyon.
Strauss Wind Energy Project, proposed by a San Diego-based division of German firm BayWa AG, seeks to install 30 wind tower generators on approximately 3,000 acres southwest of Lompoc’s city limit.
Approximately 45 people attended Thursday’s meeting focused on the scope of environmental concerns, including potential mitigation measures and possible alternatives to the project.
The Strauss proposal is similar to another wind farm planned for the site a decade ago, Santa Barbara County Planning and Development staff said.
However, the Lompoc Wind Energy Project, approved in 2009 and later canceled by the applicant, envisioned more and shorter wind tower generators, but less powerful versions than those planned by Strauss.
In its application, Strauss proposed six wind tower generators at 427 feet tall from the foundation to the blade tip and 24 towers at 492 feet tall for the same span.
Other aspects of the project include an 8.6-mile transmission line to link the wind farm to a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. substation in Lompoc.
The original environmental analysis listed aesthetics and biological resources as areas where the project would cause significant unavoidable impacts, planner Kathy Pfeifer said.
During Thursday’s scoping meeting Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s Steve Ferry said the organization strongly favors renewable energy to ease global climate change and its threat on humans, wildlife and habitat.
“That being said, wind energy that is not properly planned, sited and operated can have a devastating effect on birds,” Ferry said. “The wind farm at Altamont Pass in the Bay Area is abundant evidence of that.”
Ferry also raised concerns that the previous project’s EIR has old data, citing the out-of-date information about the recovering California condor population.
“In a significant development since the Lompoc wind project was approved 10 years ago, condors are now regularly seen in Santa Barbara County,” he said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Condor Recovery Project has tracking data that shows condors have been detected in the Lompoc area.”
Newer technology in the past decade can reduce bird collisions with wind turbine generators, he said. suggesting the environmental analysis needs to study state-of-the-art protection systems.
Other aspects of the Strauss proposal involve 14.3 miles of new access roads and widening of 16.1 miles of existing non-county roads at the wind farm site and along the transmission line.
Unlike the previous plan, impacts to Miguelito Canyon Road, including the need to widen it, would be greater due to the Strauss need to transport the humongous wind turbine blades.
Jean Beattie spoke out about “the destruction of Miguelito Canyon Road” and what she called “a beautiful pristine canyon” about to see a boost in traffic.
“The other problem I have is you don’t change bird migration,” she said. “Lots of birds go through the Pacific Flyway.”
Another Miguelito resident raised questions about fire, noise and danger to birds from the fast-spinning turbines.
“That is just going to destroy what we have out there with the wildlife, the hawks, the owls,” Mary Edwards said.
Some wondered why the giant wind turbine blades couldn’t be transported via helicopter or train to the site to avoid widening the road.
Richard Adam, an attorney for nearby landowners, questioned whether the project actually needs a full-blown environmental impact report, not a supplemental document.
“While the project is broadly similar to the 2009 project, these changed circumstances make the analysis of the impacts found in the 2009 EIR virtually inapplicable,” he said.
County staff expects the draft supplement environmental impact report to be released for a 45-day public comment period and workshop in early 2019 followed by a County Planning Commission hearing in late spring 2019.
Scoping comments are due Aug. 1 and can be mailed to Kathy Pfeifer, Santa Barbara County Planning & Development, 123 E. Anapamu St. Santa Barbara, CA 93101, or via e-mail by clicking here.
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