There has been much confusion and misinformation regarding both the PG&E power outages and Humboldt County’s current ability (or lack thereof) to be an energy island, resilient, and independent from the larger grid in California. The energy we presently get from the grid comes from the east, across the rugged coast ranges all the way from the Central Valley. The proposed Terra-Gen Bear River (Tsakiyuwit)/Monument Ridge wind energy project is just more of the same – a centralized grid-tied energy project that will be dependent on PG&E’s fire-prone transmission lines.
Unlike the radio propaganda commercials funded by Terra-Gen suggest, this project does not in any way plan to isolate energy for Humboldt County. Electricity in the grid flows to the demand, which almost always lies in urban and industrial centers, away from the hamlet of Humboldt County. The corporate marketing specialists for Terra-Gen, part of Energy Capital Partners, are spinning the built-up frustrations from the PG&E outages in their favor. This narrative is a complete lie at the expense of a premier Wiyot cultural site (Tsakiyuwit), and one of the largest coastal prairies in Northern California. Implementing this project would threaten the carbon storage of 1000’s of acres of forestlands, including the old-growth redwoods of Grizzly Creek and Humboldt Redwoods State Park, while impacting countless special status species that use this ecological transect from Cape Mendocino to Bridgeville.
The Wiyot Tribe, Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), and Humboldt County have already committed to off-shore wind development by 2025-2030 with a similar megawatt project, which would have a fraction of the impacts of on-shore, and provide us the potential opportunity to isolate the gen-tie in the Humboldt Bay Area and create islanded storage, allowing our community to be free from dependence on the PG&E grid. We will reiterate, the Terra-Gen project relies on the PG&E grid and would not have helped us during the recent Public Safety Power Shutdowns (PSPS). The project will create a new, and near 30 mile long, transmission corridor through remote forestlands on Shively Ridge, bearing the question, who will be responsible for maintaining this corridor to remain fire safe and who would make the call to de-energize these new lines should catastrophic fire conditions present themselves? Terra-Gen, RCEA, Humboldt County? Who will bear the liability of this gen-tie transmission corridor? It is unclear, but it will be Humboldt County citizens and ecosystems that suffer the consequences.
The touting of Terra-Gen that their project would bring jobs and tax revenue is also misleading. While some local jobs will be available for construction, many will be filled by specialists from out of the area. For such a huge project, only 15 permanent jobs are predicted to be created in Humboldt County after construction, which is about as many as the new In and Out Burger we’re supposed to be getting soon. The two million dollars in annual tax revenue from the project comes out to only $15.00/person, less than what the average Humboldtian pays in CRV taxes every year.
We all know that we need to be working toward reducing our carbon footprints. That can come in many forms – using less energy, driving less, transitioning to electric vehicles, installing home solar, investing in community micro-grids and keeping carbon stored in the ground and in our magnificent grasslands and forests. Humboldt County should not give this unneeded sacrifice of Tsakiyuwit to the corporate elites from out of the area. Thousands of pages of comments in opposition to the project were submitted in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) critiquing the project due to its array of unmitigable and negative significant impacts, which were not adequately assessed due to the short duration of field work leading up to the DEIR. Terra-Gen is aggressively trying to push this through, using the power of fake news, hype and propaganda to lie about what the project will really do … be another grid-tied greenwashed energy development project reliant on PG&E. RCEA should be focusing on renewable solar micro-grids while working to make Humboldt energy independent, not purchasing dirty energy from Terra-Gen.
To make matters more dire, the public will only have a few days to review the Final EIR, which was just released on November 1st at over 900 pages, with the first Planning Commission hearing only a few days later, on November 7th, continuing on November 14th, both beginning at 4 p.m. You can view the FEIR and the DEIR comments, plus other items of information at this link on the county’s web site.
The Wiyot Tribal Council first voiced concerns regarding potential impacts to tribal cultural and environmental resources from the proposed Humboldt Wind Energy Project during early consultation with the County and in its comments on the DEIR for the project. The Tribe’s diligence and persistence resulted in an alternative in the DEIR being to drop the Bear River Ridge (Tsakiyuwit) portion of the project, in order to avoid significant impacts to Wiyot cultural and ethnobotanical resources. However, this alternative would still result in associated impacts to Monument Ridge, Shively Ridge, Bridgeville, our County road systems, and the port of Fields Landing. On June 10, 2019 the Wiyot Tribal Council voted unanimously to submit a “No Project” response to the DEIR which would be the preferred option to limit both cumulative environmental impacts as well as impacts to tribal cultural resources in Wiyot and our neighboring Bear River Tribe’s ancestral territories. At the most recent Wiyot Tribal Council meeting, which took place on October 14, 2019, Tribal Council and citizens reiterated their opposition to this project due to un-mitigatable and unavoidable impacts.
The Wiyot Tribe asks the public to stand in solidarity with them by voicing opposition to the Terra-Gen project by writing to the Planning Commission and attending the November 7th and 14th hearings. If you haven’t seen the beauty, biology, and breathtaking views from Tsakiyuwit, we recommend you carpool with friends up to the ridge, taking either Monument Road up from Rio Dell, or Bear River Ridge Road from Mattole Road, south of Ferndale. Look south to Table Bluff and Humboldt Bay, listen to the soundscape of the ridge, and see the eagles riding in the thermals. Savor the place and the wild sounds of nature, which without our unified voice will be replaced by the sounds of Earth movers, engines, beeping, hammering, dynamiting, and finally an eternal whooshing of 400 foot blades, 600 feet in the sky, twice the height of our tallest redwoods, obliterating the Tsakiyuwit soundscape and the cultural landscape of the Wiyot and Humboldt County. The Wiyot Tribe would like to thank the Yurok Tribe, the Lost Coast League, Siskiyou Land Conservancy, City of Rio Dell, City of Scotia, EPIC, Friends of the Eel River, the California Native Plant Society, Salmon Forever, the American Bird Conservancy, Monument Vineyard, and the many community members as well as out of town voices that have voiced their solidarity.
Adam Canter of the Wiyot Natural Resources Department submits this op-ed on behalf of the Wiyot Tribe.