By Rebecca Person
Miriam Raftery also contributed to this article
Photos: An existing wind project on the Campo reservation has previously had multiple fires caused by exploding wind turbines, shown here, raising alarm among area residents over fire dangers and other potential hazards posed by the proposed new and far larger turbines
February 3, 2020 (Campo) -- Residents of Campo, Boulevard and Jacumba voiced their concerns Jan. 23rd at a meeting in Boulevard held by the County Planning Development Services staff addressing the construction of 120 wind turbines in Boulevard and on the Campo Reservation.
The wind turbines will be 596’ tall, taller than towers which dot the high desert that stand between 325' to almost 400 ft tall. 60 turbines are planned for the Campo Indian Reservation, and 30 turbines for McCain Valley near I-8 freeway in Boulevard. According to Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Community Planning Group, these may be the largest wind turbines ever erected on land. Turbines on tribal land would also abut her property in rural Boulevard. Setbacks from some homes would be far less than at many other wind projects, even though the turbines are larger.
Over 60 local residents gathered at the meeting and many spoke of the effects existing towers have had on their quality of life. Campo Band of Mission Indians tribal members who live on the Campo Reservation and oppose the project stated that they have presented a petition with 65 signatures asking their tribal council to overturn an earlier disputed vote to erect the giant turbines on the reservation.
The tribe earlier voted 32 to 14 in favor at a meeting that opponents say was announced as an informational-only meeting, thus some opponents were not present for the vote. View a document prepared by opponents outlining their concerns over the project's impacts
Tribal members who oppose the project expressed earnest backing of efforts of local non-profit Backcountry Against Dumps to bring people together and oppose the plans of Terra-Gen and SDG&E for their Boulder-Brush project (high-voltage substation and lines) in McCain Valley to connect turbines to Sunrise Powerlink and Campo Wind Project (60 turbines 586’ tall) on the Campo Reservation. A third project, the Torrey Wind project (30 turbines 586’ tall) is planned on the Big Country Ranch property at the north end of Ribbonwood Road in Boulevard.
Tribal leaders supportive of building the wind turbines, by contrast, contend this would bring revenues to the tribe while providing renewable energy to the region.
Alternatives to the planned projects were presented in four categories:
1/ Not building project at all 2/ Build no turbines or facilities on private land 3/ Relocate turbines from the Southern portion of the project 4/ Build underground.
The projects also involve building high voltage substation facilities, many miles of 230kv high voltage lines on 150’ steel power poles, concrete plant facilities, equipment staging and parking areas, Operation and Maintenance buildings, and road widening with eminent domain for SDG&E, paving and creating new access roads. Residents are seeing many of such installations already being built.
Battery storage fires, and spontaneous fires in which a burning turbine ignites neighboring turbines and wildfires are also a source for concern to the local residents. As ECM has previously documented, wind turbines operated by the Campo tribe at its existing Kumeyaay Wind facility have exploded in the past, sparking brush fires, and stray voltage up to 1,000 times higher than normal have been measured in nearby homes. An interrupted medical study at Cal State San Marcos on Manzanita tribal members living near those turbines raised health concerns and recommended a larger study.
Effects on wildlife, pets and livestock are also worrying property owners and residents who have witnessed many incidents in the wake of previous, smaller windmill installations in their neighborhoods.
Residents who live in the vicinity of existing turbines compared noise levels to having jet engines flying over their homes. Flashing red lights and a phenomenon called ‘shadow flicker’ are also mentioned by residents who are directly affected by turbines near their homes.
Some residents have asked what impact the new turbines will have on the water supply in the area. The effect on springs, water levels and potential pollution from construction is a growing concern because of the impacts seen by previous electric and wind facility projects, including some residents’ wells that ran dry after pumping to build big energy facilities. Non-profit organization Backcountry Against Dumps has a detailed fact sheet on these impacts which can be obtained from Donna Tisdale at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Not the least of the problems addressed at the Jan. 23rd meeting was the loss of property values to owners, who were unable to sell or had to sell for much lower than current market values. If forced out by coming turbine construction, some residents expressed their belief they should be bought out by the energy companies and given current market value for their properties.
February 3rd at 4pm is the deadline to submit objections and comments in written form regarding the proposed windmill turbines. These comments can be emailed - with the words « Boulder Brush-Campo Wind DEIR » in the subject line to Susan.Harris@sdcounty.ca.gov and a cc sent to local county Supervisor Dianne Jacob at Dianne.Jacob@sdcounty.ca.gov .