BLM denies permit for Walker Ridge wind energy project
Credit: Elizabeth Larson | Lake County News | Saturday, 26 February 2022 | lakeconews.com ~~
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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The federal government has rejected a wind energy project that would have installed dozens of giant turbines in the Walker Ridge area.
On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management said it has denied the application for the Walker Ridge Wind Energy Project.
The agency said the denial was based on potential resource conflicts and the inadequacy of the information provided to the BLM to address these conflicts and to move forward with the environmental review.
“Given the application denial, the BLM will not be preparing an environmental impact statement or potential land use amendment for this project,” the agency said in the Friday announcement.
Bob Schneider, a member of the Protect Walker Ridge Alliance and an author who has written a book about the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, has lobbied against the project for years.
“I am so pleased that the Bureau of Land Management has denied Colusa LLC and Algonquin a wind development permit,” he said in an email to Lake County News. “With passage of Congressman John Garamendi’s Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act (H.R. 6366) this threat of industrial scale development on Condor Ridge will be gone. The wind is marginal and the environmental and social costs are large.”
Colusa Wind LLC proposed the Type III wind energy project in June 2018.
Colusa Wind, a company that state corporation records showed had a San Diego address, was reported to be managed by Liberty Power, which was owned by Canada-based Algonquin, a company on both the New York and Toronto stock exchanges.
The project would have included up to 42 wind turbines generating 144 megawatts on approximately 2,272 acres of BLM-managed public land along Walker Ridge, within the Indian Valley Management Area in Lake and Colusa counties.
The BLM held a public meeting on the project in Clearlake Oaks in July 2019.
The project raised many concerns for the safety of wildlife, the impact on the environment – including soil moving and traffic in an area known for serpentine soils – and the impact of dozens of windmills that would have measured up to 676 feet tall and been visible for miles across Lake County and into neighboring counties.
By the spring of 2020, the BLM told Lake County News that its process to review the project had stopped. At that time, it needed wind surveys and data before it could move forward with consideration, including releasing a public review of the draft project and listing a reasonable management alternative.
Then, in July, Congressman John Garamendi, who represents a portion of Lake County that includes the Walker Ridge area, released a discussion draft of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act, which proposes to add the 4,000-acre Walker Ridge tract to the monument.
In January, Garamendi and Congressman Mike Thompson, Lake County’s other member of the House of Representatives, formally introduced the bill in Congress.
The act also changes the name of the entire ridgeline in Lake and Colusa counties from “Walker Ridge” to “Condor Ridge – which means “Molok Luyuk” in the Patwin language.
Then, the BLM announced its decision this week.
“Molok Luyuk or Condor Ridge, also known as Walker Ridge is a special and spiritual place that tells a story of plate tectonics, diversity of plants and animals, Native American habitation over thousands of years,” said Schneider.
Schneider said the area’s ridge road is accessible and from the ridge one can see from Mount Diablo to Mount Shasta and from the Sierra crest to Mount Konocti.
“I hope that we can plan and build a small accessible site with a boardwalk, platform, and interpretive kiosk in order that all might know and enjoy this place,” Schneider said.
This was not the first wind energy project in the Walker Ridge area, but it is expected to be the last if the expansion bill becomes law.
In 2010, AltaGas Income Trust, based in Calgary, Alberta, submitted a proposal to the BLM for a 60- to 70-megawatt clean energy wind generation project with 29 turbines to be located within a 8,157-acre area leased by the BLM to the company.
The review process for that project – which the BLM said was in a slightly different area that Colusa Wind’s project – came to an end in 2013.
Schneider said there is still a possibility that Colusa Wind could appeal the BLM’s decision, adding he hopes they won’t.
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