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Terra-Gen appeals wind energy project to Board of Supervisors

The Terra-Gen wind energy project is officially headed to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors table in December after company executives on Monday appealed an earlier denial of the controversial proposal.

The county will plan a series of meetings to accommodate for what officials anticipate will be a swarm of public comments regarding the wind farm. It’s possible the Board of Supervisors will move to a different, larger meeting space so its regular chamber doesn’t overflow, as it did at multiple Planning Commission hearings this month.

“We are looking at the middle of December,” said Kathy Hayes, the clerk of the board. “We’re trying to find a larger venue if the board couldn’t accommodate for the number of constituents who will be speaking … That has never happened in my time here; I’ve been here 18 years.”

In a dramatic decision, the Planning Commission voted last week to recommend denial of the wind farm – a decision that initially appeared to be headed toward approval before multiple commissioners, under intense public pressure, decided to change their minds.

Terra-Gen proposes to build a cluster of wind turbines on the Bear River and Monument ridges above Scotia. In meetings, company executives have stressed the need to combat climate change with renewable sources of energy, promising to create jobs and pay local taxes.

Of hundreds who spoke at multiple Planning Commission hearings this month, the vast majority opposed the project.

Local environmental experts have raised alarm about the project’s effects on endangered bird species in the area, while community members and indigenous tribal representatives have pointed out that the ridges are a sacred site tied to the Wiyot Tribe.

Critics have been quick to point out that Terra-Gen is owned by a private equity firm with other, less renewable-focused investments in the energy industry.

Still others, including Scotia residents and Rio Dell city officials, have railed against the notion that wind turbines would bring unwanted traffic and bustle to the area and obstruct the town’s scenic viewshed.

Terrra-Gen senior director Nathan Vajdos on Tuesday declined to comment on the company’s decision to appeal the Planning Commission vote.

Rio Dell city manager Kyle Knopp had spoken out against the project at two Planning Commission meetings. Earlier this week, he authored a letter to the county asking the board to choose a different venue for its own public hearings, citing an evident lack of available space to accommodate the massive attendance at commission meetings.

“The planning commissioners have difficult jobs,” Knopp said Tuesday, reflecting on the commission’s vote. “I respect the position they’re in, regardless of how they voted.”

Hayes said the board will need to plan extensively to establish a separate meeting site before the middle of December. As it does with all special meetings, the county will issue a public notice ahead of time.