By Miriam Raftery
November 24, 2013 (San Diego’s East County ) – Earlier this year, we covered Robert Lundahl’s powerful documentary about threats to ancient, large-scale Native American geoglyphs—sacred sites that stand in the way of massive energy projects.
Now an online petition implores President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to stop the destruction of these sacred sites near Blythe, California along the Colorado River. A related spoke wheel geoglyph in Ocotillo was also at risk and now stands surrounded by wind turbines. But now an ancient Kokopillo is at risk of being destroyed completely.
By Miriam Raftery
November 24, 2013 (Ocotilo) – ECM photographer Parke Ewing photographed a troubling series of images on November 22 showing a large raptor winging its way through Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Facility, dangerously close to the blades.
The next day, photographer Jim Pelley found a dead raptor lying on the ground at the site, one leg sliced off, apparently a victim of the turbines. It is unclear whether it is the same raptor photographed on the wing by Ewing.
A news article just published in Rewire Magazine that the new, large wind turbines such as those at Ocotillo are likely responsible for 100,000 bird deaths a year in California. Moreover, California is the deadliest state in the nation when it comes to bird deaths from wind projects, including many that are protected under the Migratory Species Treaty or the Endangered Species Act.
By Tom Budlong
I just mined the Ocotillo project's Environmental Impact Statement issued before the project was approved. The document's job is to predict the project's impacts.
On noise: “Under this worst-case scenario the wind farm would be considered an acceptable land use and…would meet the Imperial County daytime and nighttime noise limits. (p. 4.9-7).
By Miriam Raftery
October 25, 2013 (Ocotillo) – Wind turbines in Ocotillo went offline on October 21 for several days due to SDG&E maintenance on Sunrise Powerlink, according to Matt Dallas with Pattern Energy . Flashing red lights on the turbines that normally warn aircraft of the 500-foot-tall structures have also been dark, raising questions of safety for pilots at the site near the Borrego airport.
Editor's note: We received this editorial from a Canadian reader in response to our coverage of the Ocotillo Wind Energy Project's impacts on our local desert and the people of Octoillo.
By Catherine Bayne, Bayniche Conservancy
We grieve for you and yours, for the desert, the world and for the future. The wind war stories are fundamentally the same from everywhere, the disillusionment pervasive.
How could corruption of such magnitude flourish under the UN? We forgot that, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance"
By Parke Ewing
“Our desert home is not really a home any longer, it is just a place to fight wind turbine syndrome, since the turbines crank out profits for huge investment companies and CEO's get big bonuses while the uninformed public is forced to subsidize and allow production tax credits for a wind industry that could care less about renewable energy. Profit is the name of the game here.”—Parke Ewing
October 17, 2013 (Ocotillo) --I am a resident, another citizen forced to live adjacent to an Industrial Wind Turbine Facility. The Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility consists of 112 Siemens 2.3-108 wind turbines, the nacelles are 262.5 feet high, the very tip of a turbine blade at 12 o'clock measures 438' above the desert floor. This hideous project was approved and constructed by Pattern Energy surrounding the community of Ocotillo, California, which according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is designated as a "Marginal Wind Resource" area.
September 12, 2012 (Ocotillo)- Photographer Jim Pelley captures lightning show over a wind project in the Ocotillo desert.
By Miriam Raftery
September 8, 2013 (Ocotillo) – A new dust storm, flooding and more white foam flowed through Ocotillo today, heightening residents’ concerns about impacts of Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Facility on this desert community. At 4:40 p.m., a storm hit, sending massive amounts of dust into the air, this time coming directly from project access dirt roads created by Pattern Energy, according to Jim Pelley, who shot this video. Soon after, a storm brought flash flooding, which residents claim is worsened by drainage changes made by the wind developer. The flood brought a repeat of an unknown white sludgy substance washing across the desert floor and into the town.
“The white foam is back moving across the project. It was a bit eerie,” said Pelly, who took video of today’s white foam flood as well.
By Miriam Raftery
August 30, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Thursday’s storm brought an unwanted surprise to residents of Ocotillo, where floodwaters swept through the desert town carrying a white, foamy sludge. You can see a video of the sludge flood on our website at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cqtr8mKDbEo&feature=youtu.be
East County Magazine photographer Jim Pelley lives in Ocotillo. He and other residents say that they have never seen the white foamy sludge before the Ocotillo Wind Energy facility was built.
“What is it?” he asked. “What effect will it have on our sole source aquifer?” The underground aquifer provides the town’s only source of drinking water. Pelley also wants to know if the contaminated water will be harmful to animals. “It has been so dry out here, I’m sure all of the wildlife is very thirsty and will be drinking this water.”
An ECM special investigation finds links between rise in dust storms across outhwest, Valley Fever epidemic, and installation of large-scale desert solar and wind projects
By Miriam Raftery
August 26, 2013 (Ocotillo)--A second dust storm has struck Ocotillo on Auugust 25, just two days after an earlier dust storm swept through the desert community. Dust billowed thousands of feet into the air, dwarfing a 500 foot tall wind turbines scarcely visible in the above photo. East County Magazine photographer Jim Pelley was in the midst of the storm and shot videos:
By Miriam Raftery
August 12, 2013 (Ocotillo) – When Pattern Energy presented its proposed Ocotillo Express Wind Facility project to Imperial County Supervisors, the company promised that massive industrial wind turbines would be no louder than a refrigerator or a library. But now residents are complaining that noise levels are far louder—and they’ve provided a video to bolster their claim.
The problems foreshadow issues that East County residents could soon face when similar gargantuan wind turbines slated to be built in East County are completed -- turbines 500 feet tall with blade spans the size of football fields--far larger than any located in our region thus far.
On August 7, with many turbines still off-line due to safety issues after a blade fell off, ECM photojournalist and Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley took the following video to show the high noise levels to which area residents were being subjected: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF8eMvb4570&feature=youtu.be Since then, the problem had gotten even worse, residents say, with more turbines now back online.
July 24, 2013 (Ocotillo) - In a dramatic video, award-winning videographer Jim Pelley takes a wild ride along a flooding roadway in the heart of the Ocotillo Express Wind Project. The brief storm, which lasted only an hour, closed Highway 98, also washing rocks and debris across access roads. (Note: video contains strong language as Pelley struggles to escape the rising floodwaters.)
Pelley, an engineer and resident of Ocotillo, has long contended that changes to natural drainage patterns made by the wind project developer, Pattern Energy, would worsen flooding in the region. Ocotillo is in a federally designated flood plain, but area residents have said that in the past, it took hours of heavy rainfall to cause serious flooding.
Photo: Debris in roadway at Ocotillo; photo by Jim Pelley
July 21, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) -- A flash flood watch has been issued for San Diego County’s mountains and deserts through Monday evening. Thunderstorms and heavy showers are forecast over mountain and desert areas. Flash flooding threat will remain high through early Monday night, especially in areas recently burned by fires.
This evening, flash flooding caused a rocky ride for motorists on roadways in East County’s mountains and deserts. Mudslides caused major delays along Highway 78 at Yaqui Pass in the Anza-Borrego area. Boulders in the roadway are blocking Montezuma Valley Road, forcing closure. Portions of S-2 and Borrego Valley Road are also shut down due to flooding and debris.
Originally posted Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at San Diego Loves Green
By Roy L. Hales
June 20, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – I had to chuckle when I checked my email late last night.
That morning I had posted a press release called, “A Year Later, SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink Delivering on What it was designed to do.” It was up for hours before it dawned on me that anyone reading the title, but not opening the article, would assume it comes from San Diego Loves Green. So I changed the title to “SDG&E says Sunrise Powerlink is delivering on what it was designed to Do.” The most important part of the article was a paragraph in which SDG&E described the projects already feeding the grid:
Originally posted Friday, June 14 at San Diego Loves Green
(Image left: taken from Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s website)
By Roy L. Hales
June 17, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – There has been a great deal of talk about little places like Campo, Boulevard and Ocotillo ever since construction began on the Sunrise Powerlink. There have been multiple lawsuits as environmentalists, Native Americans and other East County residents have fought to protect their habitat, ancestral lands and homes from the encroaching pace of “development.” As much of this area lies within the East County District represented by County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, I sought her perspective about what is going on.
Activist who filmed removal of bald eagle nest by wind developer faces multi-million lawsuit
By Miriam Raftery and Sholeh Sisson
June 5, 2013 (Ontario, Canada) -- Esther Wrightman, the Canadian activist who documented Nextera Energy's removal of a bald eagle nest to make way for wind turbines, now faces a multi-million dollar lawsuit by the multi-national corporation. Why? Because she created a parody version of the company's logo which read "NexTerror" and "NextError."
The company makes the bizarre claim that Wrightman's logo on a wind resistance blog could somehow confuse its corporate customers. But supporters of Wrightman contend the suit's real motivation is to silence a strong voice of dissent. Nextera also pressured Wordpress to remove the logos, but Wordpress has put the logos back up, finding that no law was broken.
View a video report from the Sun News Network in Canada with many details on this story: http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/2434478593001
May 27, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- When Jim Pelley arose at sunrise and looked out over the desert from his home in Ocotillo, he noticed something missing. So he grabbed his camera to record the unusual sight.
A Siemens wind turbine at Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Energy facility had hurled off a multi-ton blade onto a trail on public Bureau of Land Management recreational land. Fortunately, since the accident occurred at night, nobody was harmed.
By Jim Pelley
Photos: Red Tail Hawk at Ocotillo. Thank God the turbines were not spinning! – Jim Pelley
May 22, 2013 (Ocotillo)--It’s been (1) week now since the blade throw at the Ocotillo Wind overseen by Pattern Energy. Wow! What a difference, we forgot what it was like without these wind turbines turning; it’s a breath of fresh air. Not seeing/hearing the turbines turning weather they are generating power or not is a huge difference and now that they are not turning it reminds of some of main reasons we moved to Ocotillo.
By Miriam Raftery
May 20, 2013 (Ocotillo) – Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel has granted a motion filed by citizens’ groups to remand a lawsuit over the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility from federal court back to state court.
Plaintiffs Donna Tisdale, Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps hailed the decision.
“Since Ocotillo Express operation started in late 2012, residents complain of adverse impacts from noise, vibrations, electrical interference, shadow flicker and light pollution. People, pets and wildlife are suffering while the project’s wind production is far less than advertised,” a press release issued by plaintiffs states.
By Nadin Abbott
(May 16, 2013 (Ocotillo) – “It’s scary, all the dangerous things that could happen. I don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said Michaela Woolley, 13. She spoke at a press conference at the Ocotillo Community Center today, after a wind turbine at the Ocotillo Wind Express Facility dropped a blade the length of a jumbo jet plane.
Fortunately nobody was hurt by this accident, though Miachela’s younger brother, Albert added, “It’s scary, the blade of the wind turbine could have landed in a house.” The boy said he also said gets constant headaches that make it hard to do his homework since the turbines were installed.
READER’S EDITORIAL: STOP POISONING OUR COMMUNITY! HERBICIDE SPRAYING IS WIND INDUSTRY’S TOXIC SECRET
“Pattern Energy is going to pollute what it couldn't destroy… Monsanto’s Roundup is an herbicde cousin to Agent Orange--the defoliant sprayed in Viet Nam that harmed a generation of veterans and their children… This herbicide—a neurotoxin--is going to get carried downwind. Did Pattern fail to notice that there is still a community with children here in spite of its industrialization of the area with 112 turbines and a substation?”
By Linda Ewing, Ocotillo resident
Photo: Sahara mustard, a “weed” the BLM wants to eradicate with toxic herbicides
May 14, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Herbicide Mitigation? What is that? I heard these two disturbing words and felt panic.
I knew instinctively that it was going to have something to do with this Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility because nothing good has come from this controversial project since the day Pattern Energy uttered its first words of deception to the town of Ocotillo. Since the day the company first tried to convince us that its massive 438 foot-tall industrial-sized wind turbines were good for the economy. And yes, the very same day we realized that human lives were disposable and irrelevant in the statistical world of giant wind turbine developers.
NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION DECLARES OCOTILLO WIND A SACRED SITE; ASKS ATTORNEY GENERAL TO WEIGH LEGAL ACTION
“I really want to say `Dismantle it and give the land back to the tribes…I’d like to ask the Attorney General to…give this commission more teeth so we could say `Tear that wall down.” -- Commissioner Marshall McKay
View video highlights by Paul Kruze: http://youtu.be/nS93BfT6juI
(For full unedited videos, scroll to bottom of this story)
By Miriam Raftery
April 26, 2013 (San Diego) – At a hearing in San Diego on Monday, members of the state Native American Heritage Commission heard several hours of emotional testimony from Native Americans who contend that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ignored their concerns and its duty to protect a clearly documented sacred site and cemetery in the fast-tracked approval process for the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.
By a 4-0 vote, with the remaining commissioners absent, the NAHC voted to grant requests by Viejas and Quechan tribes to declare the 12,400 acre Ocotillo wind project site a sanctified Native American sacred site. Further, the commissioners voted unanimously to ask California Attorney General Kamala Harris to research if legal action can be taken.
Image left: Bighorn Sheep at Ocotillo - Robert Baran photo, East County Magazine
By Roy L. Hales at San Diego Loves Green, originally posted April 21, 2013
April 23, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Association of Environmental Professionals has awarded the Ocotillo Wind project with its highest award for Outstanding Environmental Analysis and Documentation at a joint conference of AEP and the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP). The Builder, Pattern Energy, claims, “The Ocotillo Wind project will provide enough clean and renewable energy to power nearly 125,000 homes in Southern California each year.”
Speaking as a non-scientist, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name Ocotillo is a stream of videos (click on this link to go to the Save Ocotillo index page) that stretches beyond the four months this project has been online and continues to document the scarcity of wind. Though not a “scientific study,” they never-the-less constitute a visual chronology that includes a great many details that would not otherwise be available to the public. One has to merely scan the titles to realize something is very wrong:
By Miriam Raftery
April 12, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Native American Heritage (CNAH) Commission will hold a hearing in San Diego on Monday, April 22 at 11 a.m. The hearing will focus on results of an NAHC investigation into local tribes' allegations that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility site.
The hearing will be in the State of California Building, 1350 Front Street, San Diego 92101 (between A and Ash Streets).
A hearing previously set for February was cancelled without explanation. The CNAH had issued a draft report in support of claims by the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and Quechan Indian Nation that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources, including human remains and sacred sites, at the Ocotillo project. The draft staff report detailed a disturbing pattern by the BLM, Pattern Energy and a project archaeology consultant of ignoring tribal concerns and failing in its duty to protect cultural resources.
SOUND AND ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD EXPERTS RAISE SERIOUS CONCERNS OVER IMPACTS OF PROPOSED WIND PROJECTS ON NEIGHBORS IN EAST COUNTY
High EMF levels found in tests at Campo, Manzanita and Ocotilllo among residences near turbines
By Miriam Raftery
March 12,2013 (Campo) – Acoustical experts warn that sound generated by proposed Shu’luuk, Tule and Manzanita wind projects will cause severe negative health impacts on neighbors – and further, new studies suggest that noise impact assessments created to justify these and other projects relied on errors in computer modeling that severely underestimate sound levels.
New noise and infrasound findings
At the Campo Shu’luuk Wind project, massive wind turbines and solar panels are proposed just 500 feet from private properties with homes and 1,320 feet from tribal homes (or less if owners sign a waiver). But a major new study commissioned by a public health department in Wisconsin involving five different acoustic experts found high levels of low-frequency noise at homes abandoned by residents as far as 7,000 feet from turbines. The Brown County Board of Health concuded that residents’ complaints of health problems at the Shirley Wind project are valid and related to long-term exposure to wind turbines.
By Miriam Raftery
March 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) –Industrial-scale energy projects on Bureau of Land Management lands are pushed through by energy companies touting jobs and economic booms to communities. Not mentioned is the potential loss of tourism revenues if people stop coming to recreational areas that are visually blighted. That’s been a fear voiced by residents near McCain Valley and Ocotillo, both scenic public recreation areas where wind projects are slated or recently completed.
Now preliminary data from the Bureau of Land Management reveals a 12% drop in the number of visitors to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area over the past year. Sunrise Powerlink construction was completed in June 2012. Is the loss of 72,275 visitors due to the massive high voltage towers that dune buggies and other off-road enthusiasts now must dodge in the desert?
JUDGE GRANTS INJUNCTION TO PROTECT PHOTOGRAPHER AFTER THREATS BY PATTERN ENERGY’S PROJECT MANAGER AT OCOTILLO WIND
Update: A second restraining order has been granted to Jim Pelley, the other ECM photographer threatened by Pattern Energy's manager, Russell Graham.
By Miriam Raftery
March 7, 2013 (El Centro)—Superior Court Judge Richard Bohlander today granted an injunction for civil harassment relief to protect freelance photographer Parke Ewing following a violent threat made by Russell Graham, construction manager at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.
Ewing’s photos and videos of the project have appeared in East County Magazine as well as on his own Facebook Page and a website documenting the project’s impacts on the desert and the community.
COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN DESERT PROTECTIVE COUNCIL’S CASE OVER WILDLIFE THREATS POSED BY OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT
UPDATE: February 28, 2013 -- Judge Curiel has denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's have not yet announced whether they will file an appeal. View decision here.
“The codes are quite clear …You can’t take a Swainson’s hawk. Not even one…There is also no take for Peregrine falcons and owls. If turbine curtailment is good enough for golden eagles, it should be good enough for these species, too.” ----Laurens Silver, attorney for plaintiffs
“It is not the BLM’s role to enforce state law…All through downtown there are glass buildings that could cause a take.” – Marissa Piropato, attorney for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
By Miriam Raftery
Maris Brancheau also contributed to this report
February 27, 2013 (San Diego) – Is the federal government turning a blind eye to violations of state laws intended to protect raptors (birds of prey) and other wildlife at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility? That’s the contention of a lawsuit filed by the Desert Protective Council, an environmental group, and others against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Pattern Energy and others.
February 13, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Photographers Jim Pelley and Parke Ewing were interviewed Sunday on the national "Wind Wise" radio program regarding the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility. Russell Graham, construction manager at the Pattern Energy project, was arrested last week for allegedly making violent threats against the photographers and attempting to wrestle a camera away from Ewing.
The freelance photographers' videos and photos have been featured extensively in East County Magazine, documenting environmental destruction and raising serious questions about limited winds at the project. The Sheriff's office has indicated it would request filing of felony charges in the case, which is currently under review by the District Attorney. A restraining order has been issued against Graham, whose violent threat against Ewing was caught on the audio portion of a video recording.
Listen to the radio interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/windwise/2013/02/11/ostrander-point-and-ocotillo-express
Hear more Wind Rise programming here: http://www.windwiseradio.org/
February 9, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Photographer Jim Pelley brings us this perspective of how the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility has marred the beauty of nature in his desert community.
"The snow can been seen from Ocotillo and it used to be a good picture from my house," he writes. "Now the picture is littered with these monstrosities."