Members of the Pit River tribe, who spoke, believe the wind farm would scar land that has been a part of the tribe for generations. Jessica Jim, a past Pit River tribal council member, said she can’t back the project. “I will ask for a resolution from our Pit River tribal council opposing this project,” Jim declared to the applause of the audience. Brandy McDaniels, cultural information officer with the Pit River tribe, said projects like Fountain Wind take advantage of economically depressed areas like eastern Shasta County, and in the end, the power that is produced is transmitted to other areas.
Intermountain residents packed a school gymnasium Thursday night to sound off about a planned wind farm that some, who attended, believe would dramatically change the landscape of eastern Shasta County.
Many who came to Montgomery Creek Elementary School for the public meeting are concerned about how the large project would impact the environment, their health, and property values, and they are dubious of the project’s benefits to the area.
Portland, Oregon-based Avangrid Renewables wants to build up to 100 turbines on land that is near the Hatchet Ridge wind energy project. The site is about 35 miles northeast of Redding and 6 miles west of Burney.
The Fountain Wind project would be more than twice the size of the Hatchet Ridge wind farm, and at 591 feet, the tallest turbines in Fountain Wind would be nearly the height of Shasta Dam.
Thursday’s meeting, which lasted two hours, was a scoping session as Shasta County works with Environmental Science Associates of San Francisco on the project’s draft environmental impact report. It drew about 150 people to the Montgomery Elementary School gym.
The Shasta County Planning Department is accepting public comments through Feb. 14, but some urged the county to hold more public meetings in the coming weeks.
At one point, a resident asked those in the gym to raise their hands if they opposed the project. Several hands went up.
After, Avangrid spokesman Paul Copleman said events like this are important.
“So it’s really important for us to hear the type of concerns that were expressed today to better understand the type of information that people are curious about and use the process,” Copleman said.
He emphasized that it’s early in the planning process and Avangrid will continue to do its best “to explain to people what this will mean going forward and how the project can benefit the community in the long term.”
The Fountain Wind project could produce up to 347 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 260,000 homes, according to a formula from the Lawrence Livermore Labs. The massive wind farm would be built on 37,436 acres Avangrid would lease.
The final EIR could go to the Shasta County Planning Commission late this year or early 2020.
Here are two takeaways from Thursday’s meeting:
There is a lot of interest in the project
More chairs had to be brought in before the meeting started to accommodate residents as they lined up outside the door to sign in; many who showed up stood for the two-hour event.
“I didn’t know there was this many people who live in Montgomery Creek,” longtime resident Ron Epperson quipped before sharing his thoughts.
Epperson endorsed the project, noting that he has grown accustomed to the Hatchet Ridge wind farm, whose turbines he can see from his house.
“After a year or two, you won’t ever notice them,” Epperson said of Fountain Wind.
But of the approximately 20 residents who spoke, Epperson was the only one who supported the project.
Members of the Pit River tribe, who spoke, believe the wind farm would scar land that has been a part of the tribe for generations.
Jessica Jim, a past Pit River tribal council member, said she can’t back the project.
“I will ask for a resolution from our Pit River tribal council opposing this project,” Jim declared to the applause of the audience.
Brandy McDaniels, cultural information officer with the Pit River tribe, said projects like Fountain Wind take advantage of economically depressed areas like eastern Shasta County, and in the end, the power that is produced is transmitted to other areas.
“This means if a city wants the power, they need to generate it and not put it in our backyard,” she said.
Concerns about health, environment, vistas abound
Claims that wind turbines cause cancer and other ailments were voiced by some.
Janis Karebatis of Burney questioned why the “human population and housing” won’t be considered in the draft environmental impact report.
“I’d like to hear what your criteria are because I feel you are avoiding that,” Karebatis said.
She was assured by Environmental Science Associates and the county that potential environmental and health impacts would be addressed in the draft EIR.
John Gable of Moose Camp, an association of cabin owners, said they are worried about the height of the wind turbines and how they will obscure their views.
Gable asked that the environmental report address the visual impacts of eight turbines.
“These windmills would be part of our immediate surroundings,” Gable said.
Before the meeting started, Carol and Rich Forster were looking at poster boards that showed the windmills and where they would be located. The Forsters and their family own about 80 acres near the proposed wind farm.
“We were in Burney when all the discussions about Hatchet Ridge was going on,” said Carol Forster, who wasn’t necessarily for the Hatchet Ridge wind turbines but also realizes some of the benefits.
“But these will be situated at our mountain cabin and they’re going to be these turbines with red lights blinking at us. That’s a little different.”
Others worried about how the Fountain Wind project will affect water in the area and its availability. They also feared the wildfire threat the turbines could present – Avangrid would tap into existing transmission lines on the property.
One speaker asked who will pay for residents to get wells drilled after their groundwater supply of water has been depleted.
Residents can visit the website for more information about the project and the process, make comments and to subscribe for e-mail notifications.
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