An important essay from Ken Miller – Opposing TerraGen’s Wind Project
“We all want to stop climate change and make things better. Of course, wind power initially seems like a good idea. But jumping on the first out-of-area project exploits our good will and good intentions, and leaves us with lots of damage, widespread GHG emissions, and some high priced electricity. We have better options.”
The best thing about this proposal is that it can stimulate enlightened debate, which is what this show is doing now.
There’s no argument that we are in a climate emergency, or that we need to act urgently, the disagreement is about reducing our carbon footprint with minimal environmental impacts, and maximal resilience, and this mega-industrial project does none of that.
First of all, no matter how much electricity this thing generates, it is just wrong to put this factory in forested watersheds, native grasslands, and ridges sacred to local Native Americans, essentially forever.
We taxpayers are funding this project with 10 years of tax credits and “accelerated depreciation.” They have to start construction this Fall to get those tax benefits, so we taxpayers are also funding a rush job, and a con job.
We have time to exercise informed judgment so that
we avoid trading one bad situation for another that leaves us with the impacts, forever. There have only been two public scoping sessions last August in Eureka and Scotia, and few know about this.
Is there a better way to reduce our carbon footprint than this? Of course, conservation and rooftop solar will not destroy our ecosystems, add no new transmission lines, can be implemented quickly, and will provide resilience, an appetite for electric vehicles, and improved property values, all with minimal maintenance, plus homegrown jobs all over the county.
.This project, however, promises only 15 permanent jobs, likely by imported workers, and requires continuous maintenance because these windmills are very complex machines that fail dangerously and often, especially in untested terrain like ours.
This project defiles redwood and Doug fir biomes that are supposedly managed to protect and regenerate ecosystem values.
With an industrial complex of this magnitude, that’s impossible because of the industrial infrastructure:
Without including the mining, manufacturing, and delivery of these huge complex machines, the scale is enormous for our area:
- Up to 60-600 ft vibrating blenders with 250 foot blades rotating at 200mph at their tips,
- lubricated with 400 gal of oil,
- on bases of concrete 65 ft in diameter 10 feet into the ground, and those will never come out all the way
- on squares of scraped ground 350 ft,
- 6 250-400 ft meteorological towers
- 17 miles of new permanent roads some 200 feet wide
- up the impaired Jordan Creek watershed
- over 25 miles of 100 ft wide, 90-acre clearcut corridors thru forestland to Bridgeville across the Eel River
- kept clear with herbicides to support transmission lines
- constant human activity for 30 years, or more,
That’s operational, the construction activities include:
- using 15000 gal of water a day,
- 10000 truck trips, some weighing 110 tons and 90 feet long,
- 2 temporary bypasses on 101 at Hookton and 12 St Fortuna
- over 11000 yards of concrete from 1-2 new dirty cement batch plants fueled by generators,
- 3 million cu ft of soil displaced, soil that now stores C better than trees in wildfire CA
- erosion into Eel R tributaries
- Over 25 acres of temporary and permanent staging and Operations facilities
- 900 acres of logging
- Plus re-doing all the tie-ins at Bridgeville,
- And battery banks in Bridgeville (4.4, T4-2)
- all fueled, from mining to twirling, with fossil fuel energy.
Green House Gases (GHG)
This is neither green, nor renewable. TerraGen’s GHG emissions tally is misleading.
The immediate GHG emissions during the 18 months of construction have instant and prolonged impacts, but TG amortizes them over 25 years, so they look good compared to fossil generating plants…on paper.
(It’s called front-loading. Maxxam did that with their Sustain Yield Program, cut everything now based on mythical growth and yield numbers, but really based on producing pecker-poles and fiber, not forests.)
And they dismiss the emissions associated with all the logging.
Windmill complexes require daily constant monitoring and maintenance, lots of human activity and truck traffic every day, forever: parts fail, rotors catch fire, transformers fail, structures fail, lubrication, Transmission lines require herbicides and maintenance to prevent fires. GHGs from these are hard to discern from this DEIR.
135MW is a lot of power but constitutes only ½ of 1% of California’s renewable portfolio.
Impacts and GHG emissions from decommissioning this Project are not analyzed, and not included in the accounting.
(To date, no wind factory has been decommissioned, dismantled, and the footprint restored. There are acres of abandoned wind farms throughout California.)
Scotia, Fortuna, Rio Dell, the Eel R valley, and over to the coast will all live with windmill blight for decades.
* A Rube Goldberg machine is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overcomplicated fashion.
We suffer all the impacts from building this complex at this fragile site in order to send power to the grid so that Marin County and others, like Humboldt, can buy that power back, plus pay increased transmission costs, in order to check off a box in our Counties’ renewable agenda. This is a classic Rube Goldberg.
Marin County, which will buy this electricity, has no windmills because they cherish their landscape, especially their ridges.
(CEQA allows highly paid responders to pick each impact as if there is no whole to the landscape and fragment a project to insignificance on paper, like a magic trick.)
Two of the consequences of this rush job are that Wildlife surveys are shortened from the required 2 years to one year, and public awareness and discussion have been limited even more.
This project kills some of the iconic species that make this place wild, including Marbled Murrelets, Eagles, raptors salmonids, and an array of other birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and plants. (3-5b)
Some will say that millions will die anyway from climate change, and we have no time for solar. Nuclear proponents make this same argument. This project’s immediate and ongoing GHG emissions not only worsen heating, but guarantee the collapse of this local ecosystem.
One of the subtle, unevaluated, but far-reaching ways giant windmill complexes disturb the environment and affects all living creatures is by extracting energy from the wind.
This alters the downwind dynamics over a wide area that affects wind patterns, humidity, and temperature, affecting all life.
The Marbled Murrelet (MaMu)
The Marbled Murrelet section of the DEIR provides a window into TG’s tobacco science:
The marbled murrelet is a magically elusive endangered seabird who relies on both our coastal ocean waters and OG conifer nesting habitat.
There’s only 15% of their original nesting habitat left, and since 1993, there’s been a 20% decline mostly due to logging on private lands. (PSG)
90% of their original population is gone, with a 30% decline from 2000-2010, which continues at 4-7% annually.
California’s populations were federally listed as endangered in 1991, and Oregon just up-listed their populations to endangered recently.
At this rate, Murrelets are heading toward extinction within 30-50 years.
We taxpayers paid over a half billion 1999 $$ to protect their OG habitat with the old PL HCP.
Yet according to TG’s DEIR, this project will affect over 2200 acres of murrelet activity, and that’s just the actual physical buffers around this complex.
And the complex is within a quarter mile of murrelet habitat, right in murrelet airspace, violating the one-mile PSG buffer.
Since there are no operational windmills within the murrelet’s range, anywhere, TG plays a modeling game with our at-risk population.
Based on a tiny sample of 136 birds detected over 5 months of radar surveys, Stantec Corp concludes, with mathematical precision, that only 10.43- 20.86 murrelets will die over 30 years.
Changing a collision input by just .01 into their computer model accounts for the doubling of the calculated mortality rate.
A model so sensitive to tiny changes in inputs is unreliable when modeling the many tiny variables associated with murrelets, climate change and windmills.
With poor breeding success rates and degraded ocean conditions and OG habitat, there are absolutely no acceptable murrelet deaths.
There are, of course, no real mitigations, either, so TG relies on the Parks to thin over 20,000 acres in their forests to recruit OG murrelet nesting habitat, (meaning 100-250 acres of continuous OG), which would take centuries, and emit tons of GHGs in the process, besides eliminating those trees’ carbon storage capacity.
In other words, their mitigations rely on more logging, in addition to the 900 acres that will be logged for the project, also without GHG accounting (Appx B).
The mitigations and alternatives in this DEIR are of the Titanic variety, moving turbines around on the ridges, or modifying utility poles somewhere else to make up for killing local eagles.
I encourage everyone to read Adam Canter’s eloquent description of Bear River and Monument Ridges (Tsakiyuwit), on LoCo, May 16. You will think quite differently about whether this project fits this landscape.
At 3100 feet overlooking the Eel R valley, these ridges, are the traditional cultural property of local Tribes, irrespective of current legal ownership.
One ridge over is Rainbow Ridge, where there is the most pristine old growth Doug fir forests and bio-diverse ecosystems left on the planet.
These native grasslands are part of the Mendocino IBA habitat, where TG will cut 36 acres of the “eel grass of the hills”
My LA friend said that anyone supporting a wind complex should visit one. I don’t call it a farm, because the only resemblance to a farm is to a CAFO feedlot (Concentrated animal feeding operation). These are massive, all-disturbing, unfriendly no-critter industrial zones.
Maybe windmill complexes are OK where they already are, especially where communities want them, but not in this location. We shall see about offshore wind energy soon enough.
The real winners here are neither we, nor the planet.
The only thing renewable and green is the money game.
The Russ Ranch and HRC get 30-year, renewable leases, without doing anything, and TerraGen, owned by Energy Capital Partners (ECP), a $20B venture capital consortium, gets 10-year tax credits and a quick write-off of expenses no matter how these windmills perform; plus of course selling the power back to us with increased transmission costs.
We are supposed to trust ECP & Stantec Corp., who is doing wildlife surveys here. They are both heavily into international oil and gas, coal mining, fracking, shale and tar sands oil, pipelines everywhere, transmission lines, and the giant equipment used to haul turbine components.
The County gets a measly $2m a year, which can sound like a lot compared to other taxpayers only because TPZ lands pay so little in taxes.
So why would we exchange so much for so little gain? Is this the sacrifice we must make in order to “do our part?
Of course not.
Conservation is cheap, readily available and easy.
Distributed energy production, solar panels on every roof and electric vehicles are the ticket to resiliency, renewables, jobs, and a steady revenue stream from money-generating roofs when the cost of the panels is recovered.
Public roofs would feed that money right into our treasury, replacing those that would come from this project.
Solar panels have impacts, but the scale is orders of magnitudes less, the impacts are far more manageable, there is negligible maintenance, the roofs and wires are already in place, and they provide us with way more benefits and jobs without the destruction.
This project is a con job that benefits mainly TerraGen and its partners.
The overall environmental costs and the ecosystem impacts make this a terrible choice for our county and for our planet.
(of manufacturing, delivering, constructing, installing, operating, maintaining, and decommissioning this huge industrial complex,)
We can’t rely on CEQA, or the County at this time to protect us and steer us onto a smarter course. The agencies are well aware of this environmental disaster, but they need our support in their efforts to protect our precious ecosystems. Otherwise all they hear is from TG, and the County
This momentous decision, with widespread impacts of public concern, is in the hands of an unelected Planning Commission just because it’s on private lands, depriving us of our democracy.
There is no panacea, just better choices.
Please contact the Planning Commissioners,
July 11 Planning Commission workshoppe
July 25 Planning Commission hearing
contact California Department of Fish Wildlife, US Fish &Wildlife Service, NOAA.
Encourage organized labor, the media, local environmental groups like Audubon, FoER, EPIC, NEC, ERRP, CATS,
Speak up, this is not a done deal
Citizens Scotia meeting June 3 630 Winema Theater
June 5 comments to DEIR
Contact your Planning Commissioner: https://humboldtgov.org/194/Planning-Commission
Attend the meetings with the planning commission and let your Supervisor know that this project is unacceptable, another rip off our public trust values. Demand the Supervisors start the solar program where everyone can benefit and no harm comes to our precious hills and valleys, streams and rivers.
“To protect wild habitats and prevent the worst cataclysm of global heating, we must move to zero-carbon energy immediately – but we must do it in ways that minimize habitat destruction. That requires that energy is generated in our towns and cities, close to where we use it.” Dr. Doug Karpa, PhD, JD, Marin energy analyst
One energy analyst sums it up:
“…wind farms are now recognized as mostly having a negative effect on local resilience other than financially benefiting a very small group of people.
The main benefit local inhabitants get is merely the very dubious feel good privilege of looking at the wind turbines.” Roger