Humboldt County citizens are divided in how they feel about a proposed onshore wind project on Bear River and Monument ridges.
More than one hundred people showed up to the Humboldt County Planning Commission meeting Thursday night to voice their opposition or support for the construction of 47 wind turbines by renewable energy company Terra-Gen. Supporters of the project emphasized that the climate crisis is an existential threat that needs to be addressed now, while opponents said the project has unavoidable impacts to wildlife and Wiyot culture.
“This isn’t perfect,” said Gayle Coonan, “but there is no perfect solution to the climate crisis that is destroying the world. Most people here today realize that we cannot wait any longer.”
Several people echoed those sentiments, including Eureka City Councilmember Austin Allison and Arcata City Councilmember Michael Winkler, saying that we need to move away from fossil fuels as an energy source and humanity has already wasted too much time.
If people don’t start moving off of fossil fuels now, desertification, famine, mass migration and sea level rise will consume other important cultural sites such as Duluwat Island, Allison said.
“There are pros and cons to everything,” Allison said, “and we’re running out of time as the house burns down around us.”
However, the opponents of the project said they weren’t against renewable energy in general and wind energy specifically. There are problems with both the company, which they said was problematic because its owned by Energy Capital Partners, and the location, which is a place of prayer for the Wiyot Tribe, opponents said.
“We don’t want it,” said Linda Lange, Wiyot Tribe councilmember. “It’s that simple.”
Even though we’re in a climate emergency, Kelsey Reedy said it was wrong for the county to work with a corporation to further colonize the Wiyot Tribe’s land.
Cheryl Seidner, a Wiyot elder, said the land has already seen a lot of abuse and the Wiyot have had to stand aside and have their land decimated, clear-cut and over-fished.
“The Wiyot here have been here since before America,” Seidner said. “I want you to really let that sink in. The Wiyots were here before America.”
The site is also an important area for bird and bat activity, which could be killed in unacceptable numbers if the project were to go forward, several people said.
Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knopp said the urgency with which people want to address the climate crisis can cause them to overlook other issues that might be created through putting in place that solution.
“Given the scale and the impact of this project, why the rush?” Knopp asked. “Is the rush in the public interest?”
The commission did not get through all the speakers by publication time.
It was expected to instruct staff on whether to prepare a statement for the California Environmental Quality Act report indicating there were significant impacts that couldn’t be mitigated, but that other concerns still warranted its approval. The meeting will continue with more than 30 public speakers on Nov. 21 at 4 p.m.
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