The state Water Resources Control Board has raised objections to the controversial Terra-Gen wind energy project, saying its intended use of water could lead to the discharge of hazardous chemicals.
In a letter on Thursday, Justin McSmith of the Water Board said the project would “raise a number of water quality concerns,” including the possible discharge of chromium, zinc and chlorine into surface water runoff, as well as soil contamination.
McSmith also said an existing permit that governs “log pond” water found in Scotia does not authorize Terra-Gen’s intended water uses.
At press time, the Terra-Gen project is being heard at the county Planning Commission, which plans to decide by Thursday night if the company can move forward with building wind turbines on the Bear River and Monument ridges above Scotia.
Terra-Gen attorney Annie Mudge said Thursday the company would angle to receive conditional approval for the project given a promise to treat all the water it uses.
“We would only use it if the Water Board approves of the use and after appropriate testing and treatment,” Mudge said.
But if the Planning Commission grants conditional approval in the face of eleventh-hour concerns by the Water Board, it would prompt legal action, said Frank Bacik, president of the Town of Scotia.
“If (the county) were to set conditions, I’ve got another cause of action to go to court with,” Bacik said.
The water that makes its way into the Scotia log pond is “secondary-treated,” which means it’s only partially cleaned wastewater.
The log pond water is jointly controlled by the Scotia Community Services District and the Humboldt Redwood Company.
In its final environmental impact report, Terra-Gen indicates it will buy water from Humboldt Redwood Company that otherwise would be deposited into the log pond.
Jennifer McDonald of the Scotia Community Services District said Terra-Gen has made no attempt to contact the district about its intended water use. The district has made clear its opposition to the project.
Mudge, on the other hand, said Thursday that the company does not need approval from Scotia’s special district because Terra-Gen plans to buy the water before it ever reaches the log pond.
In that case, Mudge said, the water is owned solely by the Humboldt Redwood Company.
The dispute over Terra-Gen’s wind energy project has prompted overwhelming public comment across three Planning Commission hearings this month.
Members of the public have fiercely opposed the company’s planned use of sacred sites linked to the Wiyot Tribe, as well as its effect on local endangered species.
Terra-Gen and its proponents have repeatedly stressed the need to counter climate change by developing a renewable energy source in the wind farm, though detractors accuse the company and its owner, a private equity firm, of being motivated exclusively by profits.
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