Santa Barbara County supervisors deny appeals, approve wind energy project
Credit: Mike Hodgson | Santa Maria Times | Jan 29, 2020 | santamariatimes.com ~~
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Three appeals of the Strauss Wind Energy Project conditional use permit and variance granted Nov. 20, 2019, by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission were denied Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
On a 4-0-1 vote, with 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam absent, the board denied the appeals and granted de novo approval of the project southwest of Lompoc but added a new condition and expanded another to meet some of the concerns raised by appellants and shared by supervisors.
Condition 16 was expanded to require the Planning and Development Department director to submit an annual report to the Planning Commission on the impact mitigation program for the rare Gaviota tarplant for five years after the turbines become operational.
A new condition, No. 103, specifies that in the final siting of the turbines that two of them not be located any closer to the home at 4026 San Miguelito Road than a previously approved plan in order to mitigate noise and vibration impacts on the residents.
About 25 residents and representatives of nonprofit organizations spoke both in favor and in opposition to the project.
Proponents pointed out the need for resilience through local, renewable power generation as well as the economic impacts of the jobs it will generate, while opponents focused on the loss of wildlife and habitat along with degradation of the environment and destruction of the rural nature of the area.
In rejecting the appeals and approving the project, supervisors cited increasing global impacts of rising atmospheric temperatures, the need to develop more environmentally responsible energy sources and the numerous mitigation measures taken by the project developers to protect the land as well as plant and animal life.
The commercial-scale wind turbine project involves installing six 427-foot-tall wind turbine generators capable of producing 1.79 megawatts each and 23 492-foot-tall wind turbines capable of generating 3.8 megawatts each, for a total potential output of 98.14 megawatts.
The 29 turbines plus a 5,000-square-foot operations and maintenance building would be constructed on a 5,887-acre project site 4 miles southwest of Lompoc near the end of San Miguelito Road.
Power would be collected via primarily underground cables at an onsite substation and from there would be sent via overhead transmission lines 7.3 miles to a switch yard on the south side of Lompoc.
Three appeals were filed over the Planning Commission’s decision on behalf of George and Cheryl Bedford, Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy and the California Native Plant Society.
Issues raised by the appellants included that the final supplemental environmental impact report used an insufficient project description, contained an inadequate noise analysis, deferred environmental analysis and mitigation, inadequately analyzed project alternatives and improperly relied on a 10-year-old EIR developed for a previously proposed wind energy project.
Appellants also said the project conflicts with various county land use ordinances and the Comprehensive Plan Energy Element and said the SEIR had to be recirculated for comment because it added significant new information about impacts on golden eagles and groundwater and that the county inadequately described the environmental setting of the El Segundo blue butterfly.
In addition, they said the impacts on the Gaviota tarplant identified by the SEIR were not supported by evidence, impacts of collisions with turbines by special-status bats and raptors were not adequately analyzed and impacts on wildlife by low-frequency vibrations were not analyzed at all.
Appellants said the effects of blasting on a nearby residence were not adequately analyzed and mitigated, that a meteorological tower without guy wires would require more ground disturbance than a tower with guy-wires and the SEIR failed to establish specific, enforceable standards for the stormwater management plan.
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