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Tribes Fight Green Energy Wind Project In Desert

Above: With the new leasing rules, Native Americans hope to develop renewable energy projects like this wind farm in the Mexican state of Baja California.

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Aired 3/19/12

Ocotillo Wind Project

— Several Native American tribes in the Southwest are fighting a large wind farm planned near the town of Ocotillo, in Imperial County, CA. The tribes say there are more than 400 archeological sites on the land where the turbines would be located.

The Ocotillo Wind Express Energy Project, proposed by Pattern Energy, would produce up to 356 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power more than 130,000 households.

Ocotillo wind is one of the largest renewable energy projects planned on public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It's one of 19 priority projects designated in 2011 by the bureau.

The Cocopah, Quechan and several Kumeyaay tribes say the project would desecrate a vast swath of land that’s part of their traditional cultural landscape. Ancient ceremonial sites, geoglyphs and other remnants of the tribes’ history are scattered across the 12,500 acres where the turbines will be placed, they say.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story reported that Kumeyaay tribes opposed the project. The Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians has expressed support for the project.

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Ocotillo, CA


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Above: Nataive Americans tribe are opposing a wind project near this California desert town.

At a recent symposium on renewable energy in San Diego, Anthony Pico, chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, said federal and county officials haven’t engaged the tribes in meaningful consultation about the project — against federal and state law.

“Without listening to us, without recording what we have to say, without putting those in the environmental impact study, the archeological study, they’re not understanding where we’re coming from,” Pico said.

The chairman said Ocotillo wind's designation as a BLM priority project has led to a "fast track" process that has restricted public participation and consultation with affected parties.

Nevertheless, the tribal leader said most Indian tribes in Southern California support renewable energy.

“It’s a great thing in our fight against fossil fuels that’s making our Mother Earth very ill,” Pico said. “But we are against any kind of industrial project that does not take into consideration our cultural resources.”

In January, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a 20-year power purchase agreement between Pattern Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric for 315 megawatts of wind energy from the Ocotillo project. The company plans to connect to the controversial Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, which still under construction.

BLM released the final environmental impact statement for the wind farm on March 9. The agency is scheduled to make a final decision on whether the project will go forward in the coming months.

After that, Imperial County must issue a conditional use permit before the company can begin work.

Pico said the tribes still hoped to convince federal officials to halt the project.

Comments

Avatar for user 'joel'

joel | March 19, 2012 at 1:39 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

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Avatar for user 'Wiegand'

Wiegand | March 20, 2012 at 10:04 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

"The term "fast track" is purposely designed to restricted public participation and consultation with affected parties. A more appropriate term for this wind industry strategy would be "ambush" or "Rigging". These wind farms are planned years before the public even hears about it. Then the project designers create all their phoney reports. I read their report. Their radar will not work and the local eagles will be killed of in this habitat. Generations of Eagles that have used this area for thousands of years will be exterminated. There has been a 50 decline in the golden eagle population near Altamont since 2005. Despite wind industry claims, the new bigger turbines are not safer. This notion was based on the very flawed Smallwood studies at Altamont. His studies did however prove that the taller bigger turbines actually Kill more eagles. I went into detail about this in the Repowering Altamont with Smoke and Mirrors article. As for being safer for all other birds, the Smallwood studies are completely meaningless because of the deliberately undersized (75 Meter)search areas and the comparison to other habitats that had far more bird species. If search areas were a 200 meter radius and the comparisons were made in the same semi desert habitat, then the studies might have some credibility. The industry knows that birds hit by the turbines do not just fall within a 50-75 meter radius of wind turbines. Even the early small turbines 40-65KW threw birds 200 feet or more. Now with these huge turbines(20-45 times bigger with blades moving faster) it is a totally different story. readers should search the internet for the Watertown Daily Times 12/15/11 article about the dead geese. The turbines threw these geese all over the place. Yet by the wind industry mortality standards, any of the geese more than 75 yards away from a turbine would not make it into the rigged methodology of wind industry mortality studies. And then there are the uncounted mortally wounded that wander around for days.

Here is the truth about the wind industry impacts to birds. At least 3 million birds are killed annually in the US from Wind Turbines. All the current estimates we hear in the media are based on industry approved, completely flawed studies. The Propeller style wind turbine will never be safe unless tip speed is reduce to around 50 mph.

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Avatar for user 'Wiegand'

Wiegand | March 20, 2012 at 10:04 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

The early Altamont and Tehachapi turbines turned at about 72-80 rpm but the tip speed was only 125 mph (184 ft sec) because the blades were only 22 ft long. The new turbines have blades 150 ft long and when spinning at 20 RPM have a blade tip moving at 314 ft per second or 214 mph. The slower rpm moving blades also fool birds more because they see right through illusive openings between the blades and think they can fly through them. Here is the math for the so called new safer turbines. 1) A single blade on a 300-400 foot turbine with 150 foot blades slowly moving at 20 rotations per minute will equal a circle with a 300 foot diameter. At 20 rotations each blade tip is moving 20 x 300 x 3.14 feet per minute =18840 feet per minute divided by 60 which equals 314 ft per sec or 214 miles per hour.

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Avatar for user 'EwiiaapaaypTribe'

EwiiaapaaypTribe | March 26, 2012 at 4:37 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

The report that "the Kumeyaay tribes" oppose the Ocotillo Express Wind Project is in error. There are 12 Kumeyaay bands or federally recognized tribes. Of these, four Kumeyaay tribes have modern and historical affiliations with Tribal Cultural Properties in the Project area (Ewiiaapaayp, Campo, La Posta and Manzanita). The Project will not physically impact any TCP in the Project area. The Ewiiaapaayp Tribe supports the Project and the efforts to project and preserve the TCP in and near the Project area that are available only should the Project move ahead. The Ewiiaapaayp Tribe has met many times with the Project proponent, Pattern Energy, and consulted with the Bureau of Land Management, and is satisfied with compliance with all applicable federal statutes and regulations.

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Avatar for user 'SDbackcountry'

SDbackcountry | April 10, 2012 at 10:28 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Industrial wind energy development is our modern day hydroelectric dam. Hydroelectric energy is considered renewable, but few people would call it green. The same goes for industrial wind energy. Industrial wind energy is not green, we need to look at rooftop and parking lot solar, increased efficiency, and reduced demand. Wind power production on protected federal lands is not in the interest of citizens, but lines the pockets of energy companies. Ocotillo Wind Energy = Hetch Hetchy Dam

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