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Wind Energy Proposal Gets Mixed Reviews In Boulevard

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A Portland, Oregon-based company wants to build a wind farm in Southeastern San Diego County. The first of several public hearings on the project will be held Wednesday evening in Jacumba. The proposal is one of three interconnected energy projects in the same area.

A Portland, Oregon-based company wants to build a wind farm in Southeastern San Diego County. The first of several public hearings on the project will be held Wednesday evening in Jacumba. The proposal is one of three interconnected energy projects in the same area.

Iberdrola Renewables has proposed building a wind energy project on 1,600 acres in southeastern San Diego County near Boulevardl.

Ed Clark with Iberdrola Renewables says the plan calls for at least 100, and possibly 133, wind turbines stretching up to 400 feet from base to blade-top.

"The very first turbines would be on this ridge we see right over here on this ridge right over here to the west," said Clark, pointing out the ridge tops in the McCain Valley where the turbines would be placed. "And go north on that ridge and further to the north and to the west there would be additional turbines and those also will have strings of turbines on them."

The turbines would be placed on federal, private, state and tribal lands in the McCain Valley.

The proposal also includes access roads and a 138-kV transmission line.

Clark says the project would generate enough power for 60,000 San Diego-area homes and provide 10 permanent jobs.

The wind project requires federal, state and county approval.

The California Public Utilities Commission has determined the Tule Wind Project is linked with two other projects in the area -- a new substation and a wind project in Baja.

"Well, it's not just one project, it's three projects," said Donna Tisdale of Boulevard. "It's Tule wind, SDG&E's Eco Substation and Sempra's Energia Sierra Juarez. They're all reliant on the Sunrise Powerlink, so we'll have all those projects running through our community and impacting just this whole region. And there's more coming."

Tisdale, a member of the Boulevard planning group, is worried the projects will forever change the community.

"Most of us live out here because we enjoy the quiet, peaceful, rural setting," said Tisdale. "And if it becomes a massive you know, whirling, blinking, buzzing, thumping industrial zone with powerlines and substations at every corner, I mean, the quality of life is gone."

But some of Tisdale's neighbors welcome the Tule Wind Project.

Larry Smith lives in Live Oak Springs -- within view of an existing wind farm in Campo.

"I will say it, I've said it before, that where my property's located, where the windmills are now, I don't really like the visual aspects of it myself," said Smith. "However, that being said, if this is going to make electricity cheaper, easier, more affordable for everybody up here everywhere around, I can live with it."

Some environmental activists question whether private companies should be allowed to use public land for energy projects.

"People don't often times don't realize what is being lost in natural lands until it's gone," said David Hogan of the San Diego County-based Protect Our Communities Foundation.

"You know it's easy to take for granted these beautiful wide open vistas of natural landscape in eastern San Diego County," Hogan continued. "And all of a sudden you drive out one day and they're covered with wind turbines or a new natural gas-fired power plant or some other ugly infrastructure that has totally destroyed the experience of these wild natural places. There are so few left, they're so precious."

Bob Walker lives and works in Boulevard.

"Yeah, the visual aspect is something that concerns me. But I've thought long and hard about this and you know, we're going to have to bite the bullet," said Walker. "In this economy we've got right now we need more jobs and we definitely need them out in Boulevard too. And if that will bring some new jobs, there's a lot of people out of work right now."

Ed Clark with Iberdrola Renewables says if the Tule wind project passes all regulatory hurdles construction could start late this year or in 2011.

Public hearings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Jacumba and Thursday in Boulevard to consider the Tule Wind proposal and two other energy projects.

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