For weeks, environmentalists, tribal members and some local city officials have been speaking out against a contentious wind energy project being proposed on Monument and Bear River ridges.
More than 300 of those individuals marched today from the nearby city of Rio Dell to the Winema Theater in Scotia as part of what Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knopp called “the largest pro-environment and pro-tribal rights march in the history of Rio Dell.”
Among those present were Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes; the town of Scotia’s president Frank Bacik; former Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb; Humboldt County Board of Supervisors candidates Sean DeVries, Michael McKaskle and Cliff Berkowitz; and members of the Wiyot Tribe, for whom Bear River Ridge is a sacred site for prayer known as Tsakiyuwit.
The sacredness of Tsakiyuwit to the Wiyot people was called into question at one of the Humboldt County Planning Commission meetings, said Cheryl Seidner, a Wiyot elder and former chair of the tribe.
“We don’t tell everyone the sacredness of our land,” Seidner said. “And as you somewhat may know, all land is sacred.”
Once the project is installed, Seidner said there will be no going back.
“Because if we lose our high prairies and our high prayer areas, that’s a sacredness that … we can’t take back,” Seidner said.
Nathan Vajdos, Terra-Gen’s senior director of wind development, has said previously that the project will be a boon for Humboldt County and help the state be less reliant on fossil fuels, which are responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions warming our planet. And on Friday, the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce announced its support of the project.
“Clean energy and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand,” chamber CEO Donna Wright said in a release. “The Humboldt Wind Project represents an important investment into
Humboldt County’s renewable energy future, business community, and economic diversification.”
However, those at today’s rally said there were better ways of going about getting energy and the project would ultimately do more harm than good.
The project’s environmental impact report lays out that there will be significant harm caused by the project, Bacik said, none of which will be significantly mitigated after months of review.
“This is a terribly harmful project,” Bacik said. ” … It’s not just the way we perceive it, that’s the way they have analyzed it. They’ve come up with eight different categories of significant adverse environmental impacts that are unavoidable.”
The U.S. did things the wrong way a lot of the time in it’s history, Bacik said, citing how the railroads must have also seemed like an overriding consideration and yet led to dumping silt into the streams, blowing up mountains and stealing land.
“Overriding considerations are not necessarily a good thing,” Bacik said. “They’re usually a bad thing.”
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide Monday or Tuesday whether the project’s unavoidable impacts outweigh the benefits of the project or vice versa. A statement of overriding considerations would acknowledge that the project is going to do harm, but the benefits outweigh the costs.
There wasn’t enough discussion done with the communities that will be impacted by this project, Garnes said, and it will put Rio Dell’s water source in harm’s way.
“We all know that there are fault lines up there,” Garnes said. “They’re going to go into the earth, they are going to disturb it, they’re going to put things in the water going right past Rio Dell’s filtration gallery. That’s our drinking water. What about Rio Dell’s drinking water?”
The process shouldn’t have gotten to this point, said Corinne Alton, a Wiyot tribal member who works as a water operator in-training in the tribe’s Natural Resource Department. Once the environmental impacts were discovered, that should have been the end of it, she said.
Alton said she definitely in support of renewable energy and projects that support labor unions, but stressed there were other avenues available.
“There’s never ever been a case where there was one place and one place only,” Alton said. “There’s always another option.”
If you go:
What: Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting to address the Terra-Gen wind energy project
Where: The Adorni Center, 1011 Waterfront Drive, Eureka
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday
The meeting agenda can be found at https://bit.ly/35nvqXG.
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