Have you ever heard of the North Peak Wind Farm? Me neither (until a few weeks ago). I did not know such a project existed in our beautiful High Desert.
Know why you haven’t heard about it? Because the electric company doesn’t want you to know! They hoped to push this project through with minimal public input.
Are you outraged? You should be! Our local electric company, Southern California Edison (SCE) has applied to build a huge electricity generating wind turbine project in a beautiful area of Apple Valley. The site of the wind turbine portion of the project is on the “Apple Valley” side of the San Bernardino Mountains, clearly visible to almost every residence in Apple Valley, Hesperia Lake, and parts of Lucerne Valley.
Energy developers are in a rush to tap the southern California deserts’ vast spaces, ample sunshine and wind. They claim it’s needed to help meet the nation’s clean energy needs. Maybe so, but it’s also a case of big corporate greed. If all of the pending applications were approved, wind and solar projects would cover as much as 880 square miles of public land.
How about some details of this particular project? I admit I haven’t had time to study the entire 315 page document that describes this project. But here is my general understanding of the main points:
The area that the wind turbines will sit on is 10,500 acres, between 5000 – 7000 feet elevation. There will be 40 to 70 turbines with heights up to 495 feet. A scraped space underneath each turbine of 250 feet will surround its huge cement base.
In addition to these towering behemoths, there will be a new substation built in Apple Valley, and power transmission poles up to 212 feet high.
The plan for these utility poles is to string them along the outer fringes of Hesperia and Apple Valley, starting from the existing Lugo Sub Station near Ranchero Road in Hesperia, and go along Arrowhead Lake Road, then across the Mojave River at Rock Springs Road, and pass right by Deep Creek Road. It continues through the desert and crosses Highway 18 between Milpas Drive and High Road, then through the Granite Mountains and keeps going.
To maintain all of this, there will be roads and structures built across public lands along the transmission route.
There are some huge environmental concerns to consider. What about animals like bighorn sheep, tortoises, mountain lions, jackrabbits, horned lizards, bobcats and yes, even coyotes? The huge power poles are a definite threat to falcons, eagles, hawks, great horned owls, and other birds. What about the poppies, desert sage, yucca, Indian paintbrush, and other wildflowers and plants? Fighting wildfires is another concern. Aircraft may have issues with the height of these towers.
There are what I deem to be mis-statements made in the “Proponents Environmental Assessment,” (PEA) document sent to the Public Utilities Commission of the State of California, dated August 28, 2013.
On page ES-10 (page 31) of the 315-page PEA document, one statement in particular really conflicts with everything I have heard about the location of this project. Under ASTHETICS, the question asked is, “Would the project have a substantial adverse effect on a scenic vista?” And, SCE answered “No Impact.” Really? I can see it from my front yard in Desert Knolls, near the 16th hole of the Apple Valley Golf Course!
What about the giant power transmission poles and lines? My understanding is that these are gigantic poles, bigger than even the largest you’ve seen elsewhere running along local highways. But, these are going to be running through populated areas in Northwest Apple Valley, and up through the Granite Mountains.
Keeping local deserts in a wilder state bucks the trend in southern California, and that can mean a problem for us desert dwellers. We need to keep sharp vigilance over companies that want to come in and rob us of our pristine desert wilderness.
A particular area of concern with this project is Juniper Flats. The Flats feature several rare riparian areas which attract a range of wildlife Many springs supported a Native American population. It is popular for outdoor recreation activities, including hiking, rock climbing, hang-gliding, horseback riding, dirt biking or 4×4 driving (motor vehicles allowed only on designated open routes).
I sat down with Apple Valley Mayor Art Bishop to discuss this project. He is very concerned about the impact of this project would have on our community, and has offered the Town’s facilities to hold public meetings. So far, none have been scheduled.
One meeting was held on February 12, but was only attended by government officials, and Bishop was there. Also in attendance was First District County Supervisor Robert Lovingood and several aids, 33rd District Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s senior field representative Steve Johnson, American Indian and environmental groups (including one concerned with aviary species), among others.
According to Bishop, there was no public represented at the meeting. He stated, “there are so many environmental and community issues involved here that the public must have a chance to speak their piece.”
Bishop acknowledges that the future needs of energy generation must be addressed throughout the state, but “common sense and reasonable goals” must be used to meet these issues.
The Bureau of Land Management Barstow Field Office is currently tasked with the non-partison permitting of this project. Notice of Intent and scoping comments are expected to begin soon.
This project must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but it’s difficult to determine just who is in charge of enforcing this compliance. The public is advised to ask these questions: “Where are we in the permitting process?” and “Where are the public hearings and meeting.”
See Sidebar Article on how to contact your government representatives to tell them your concerns about this project.
If you know of another project that is threatening our wide open vistas and pristine desert wildlands, please email me, Katrina Siverts, publisher of this paper, at email@example.com