Opponents of a planned wind energy farm project on the Bear and Monument ridges in the Scotia area convened today to sound an alarm over the potential environmental impacts of the endeavor.
The project would bring up to 60 wind turbines to supply an estimated 36 percent of the county’s energy needs. But residents today said the turbines could threaten the biological diversity of the area if the company behind the plan, Terra-Gen, doesn’t add significant extra steps to its environmental impact report.
“All of these things that have been identified as mitigations have not yet been put together,” said Frank Bacik, president and director of legal affairs for Town of Scotia. “The assertion of this draft EIR does not meet basic tasks.”
Adam Canter, a botanist and Wiyot tribal member, said the tribe may act on its ability to lobby for cultural sites – like the ridges – that aren’t part of the tribe’s own land base.
“We’re very slowly starting to piece back some of those … lands as tribal lands,” Canter said.
Members of the public today voiced their concerns to a panel at the Winema Theatre in Scotia. Bacik and Canter sat on the panel, along with Bud Leonard, the former mayor of Rio Dell, and Ken Miller, a concerned citizen.
Miller spoke to the project’s planned connection to a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation in Bridgeville. That will be expensive, he suggested, and PG&E users may end up footing the bill.
“The bottom line is you shouldn’t trust the people who are composing this because they ain’t going to be here 30 years from now and there’s a lot of ways they can get around keeping any of their promises,” Miller said.
While the project’s environmental impact report will go before the county Planning Commission for certification and permit approval, Bacik said that’s only the beginning.
“This inevitably will be appealed to the Board of Supervisors,” Bacik said.
Denver Nelson, a longtime Humboldt County resident, said similar wind farms were set up near land he owns in Iowa. He refused to let the corporate project associates set up turbines on his property, he said, and he doesn’t regret it.
“I’m getting cynical as I’m getting older – or maybe more realistic,” Nelson said. “About 90 percent of the farms (that agreed) back there wouldn’t do it again.”
One of the project’s stated goals is to combat climate change while providing jobs to the area. But many Scotia and Rio Dell residents appeared convinced the goals were phony talk.
Another speaker, Susan Neston, said her younger sister had just retired from a similar wind energy company. The people who traveled with her to work on the various projects were company hires, not a workforce drawn from the local population.
“They’re saying the project would bring 15 jobs,” Neston said. “Fifteen jobs for our environment to be ruined.”