Humboldt Residents Say Not In My Backyard To Wind Farm

A proposed wind power project in California’s Humboldt County ShellWind Energy, Inc. (SWE) is drawing some serious “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) responses. During a Ferndale City Council meeting on September 1, 2011, residents expressed concerns about construction noise, use of large trucks, the visual impact of the wind turbines, light pollution and the effect on property values, the Eureka Times Standard reports.

Prior to the meeting, residents sent letters to the Ferndale City Council opposing the project. According to the Eureka Standard Times, one of the letters said, “This project could have a major impact on the lives of residents of both the city of Ferndale and the Eel River Valley. Citizens’ questions and concerns must be addressed before any final decision are reached on a project of this magnitude.”

The Bear Wind River Wind Power Project would consist of up to 25 wind turbines with a 50 to 75 megawatt capacity on the Bear River Ridge, about six miles south of Ferndale. Located on private property, SWE obtained long-term agreements (wind leases) with local land owners to develop the project, according to a December 2009 project description. The project area, according to the description, “is currently used primarily for agriculture (i.e., cattle production) and timberland management and is identified in Humboldt County Zoning Regulations.”

The SWE has been studying the site since since 2004 and wants to have the farm completed and operating by late 2014, but that plan depends on gaining approval. SWE needs a Conditional Use Permit from Humboldt County and a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the federal Endangered Species Act for potential impact on the Marbled Murrelet, a bird species federally listed as threatened.

SWE needs to better market project to community

Pana Ratana, business development advisor for ShellWind Energy, Inc. (SWE) said at the Ferndale City Council meeting that if the community does not support the project “then we obviously don’t have a project.” However, the Eureka Times Standard reports that residents “residents kept reiterating that they thought the project was a done deal” that is being forced on them.

Ratana said the wind farm will bring millions of investment dollars from ShellWind over the next 20 years, plus 120 full time employees during construction and six to 12 full time employees to maintain the wind farm. The Eureka Standard Times reports that “ShellWind plans to develop community partnerships, including education programs on alternative energy and outreach to first responders.”

Clearly, SWE needs to better communicate the benefits of the wind project to the residents of Humboldt County. The company has an opportunity to do so at the open house SWE plans to hold early next year to answer the transportation concerns of the residents. Whether that will allay the residents’ concerns remains to be seen. NIMBY is a powerful force.

Photo credits: Flickr user, tswind

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.