May 23, 2019

Public comment period open for Lompoc wind project

By Zak Ezzone | Santa Maria sun | May 22nd, 2019 |

A decade after approving a project to build wind turbines south of Lompoc, which were never constructed, Santa Barbara County is weighing a similar project in the same area proposed by a different company.

The county Department of Planning and Development recently released a draft of its supplemental environmental impact review (SEIR) for the Strauss Wind Energy Project, which is being proposed by a company called Strauss Wind. The plan calls for the construction of 30 wind turbines up to almost 500 feet tall, as well as a transmission line to connect the turbines with Pacific Gas and Electric’s electric grid.

This recent review builds on the report the county completed for the previous Lompoc Wind Energy Project and examines the differences between the two projects, said Errin Briggs, supervisor of the Planning Department’s permitting and compliance division.

“A SEIR amends and modifies a previously certified [environmental impact review] to make it adequate for a project that has changed since the previous [review] was prepared,” the review document states.

Although most details of the two projects are similar, Strauss Wind proposes using larger turbines, which generate more energy and require fewer turbines than the Lompoc Wind project. However, these larger turbines are too big to currently be transported to the project site. According to the SEIR, the project requires the widening of San Miguelito Road to transport the turbines, which would result in the removal of an estimated 158 oak trees.

Aside from the tree removal along San Miguelito Road, the SEIR outlines other ways that the turbines would affect plants and animals in the project area. For example, birds and bats flying in the area are at risk of being killed by the turbines’ spinning blades. According to the SEIR, this impact is considered significant and unavoidable.

Briggs said Strauss Wind would have to abide by mitigation measures required by the county, but no measure would completely prevent birds and bats from flying into the blades.

“No matter what we do, the blade turbines are going to kill birds,” Briggs said.

In addition to the effects on animals and plants, the large turbines will be seen from various places in and near the Lompoc Valley.

“Obviously, the blades will be visible from public areas, like Jalama Beach County Park and some areas north and east of Lompoc,” Briggs said.

The county released the SEIR for public comment on April 23 and is also holding a public meeting for the project at Lompoc City Hall on May 30 at 6 p.m. After receiving and reviewing all of the public comments, Briggs said his division will present a staff report and the environmental review to the county Planning Commission.

Briggs said the time frame on when the staff report is presented to the commission depends on the amount of public comment that the project receives, but it could take more than six months. The Planning Commission has the authority to approve the project without its going to the county Board of Supervisors, unless a member of the public appeals the commission’s decision.

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