Ocotillo

CA NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION ISSUES REPORT BACKING VIEJAS AND QUECHAN CLAIMS OF OCOTOILLO WIND SITE HARM TO SACRED SITES

 

Commission urges CA Attorney General to file suit if mitigation requests not met

Update February 12, 2013: A hearing set for February 15 in San Diego has been postponed.

By Miriam Raftery

January 22, 2013 (Ocotillo ) – The California Native American Heritage Commission (CNAH) has issued a report in support of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and the Quechan Indian Nation claims that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources including human remains and sacred sites at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.  The draf staff report details 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.

The tribes petitioned the NAHC to investigate and conduct a public hearing to consider tribal requests to declare the entire 12,500 acre site a ‘sanctified cemetery’.  Tribes also seek to have the project halted to assess damage and want agencies to consult with tribes to agree on mitigation measures to prevent further harm to a broader region. The case has broad national significance, with hundreds of millions of acres of public lands slated for renewable energy projects.

The NAHC has cancelled a Public Hearing that had been scheduled at the State of California Building on Front Street in Downtown San Diego for February 15, offering no explanation for the indefinite postponement.


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WHERE IS THE WIND? VIDEO LINKS SUGGEST OCOTILLO WIND FARM IS UNDER-PERFORMING

By Miriam Raftery

View our full investigative report here. 

January 23, 2013 (Ocotillo) -- Videos shot by award winning photojournalist and engineer Jim Pelley suggest that the Ocotillo Wind Express Facility is thus far not living up to projects made by Pattern Energy, which claimed in early December that "with wind forecasts looking favorable" it expected to power 125,000 homes, News 8 reported.

It takes sustained winds of 8 to 10 mph before wind turbines are productive.  Thus far there is little evidence of any such sustained wind speeds in Ocotillo during the first seven weeks of the wind facility's operations--not even on a day when high winds were forcecast for the region.  View videos below.  Such underperformance is not unusual, an ECM investigation has found.  Watch for more details soon.


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FEDERAL JUDGE HEARS QUECHAN TRIBE’S CASE ON OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT HARM TO SACRED SITES

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 21, 2013 (San Diego) – On Friday, January 18, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Quechan tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management, as well as Pattern Energy and other defendants.

The suit contends that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources, including sacred sites, when it allowed the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility to be built. Moreover, Quechan contends that the federal government's reclassification of protected lands to accommodate the wind project was arbitrary--and that a similar decision to industrialize almost any public lands regardless of damage to resources could be done if the government's action is allowed to stand. 


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AWEA CONFERENCE ADDRESSES WIND SITING ISSUES IN THE WEST

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Jim Pelley (red-tailed hawk at Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility)

January 20, 2013 (San Diego) – Wind power is now the second largest contributor to “green” energy generation in California, with 75,000 Gigawatts produced to date.  California is on track to meet its ambitious target for a 33% renewable portfolio by 2020, according to Karen Douglas, Chairman of the California Energy Commission. (CEC).   But at what cost to wildlife and the environment? 

Balancing environmental concerns vs. the quest to build mega-energy projects to address climate change is a key challenge facing the wind industry--and a hot topic during a panel titled "Building WInd in the West: Overcoming Siting Issues" at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference in San Diego last week.

Douglas’ statement was read by a moderator, due to a last-minute conflict in Sacramento that prevented her attendance. Douglas also addressed the Desert  Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) covering 22 million acres, calling for streamlining of permits to enable development of energy projects including 200,000 to 350,000 acres in San Diego and Imperial Counties.   


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LIGHTS, BLADE SHADOWS DISTURB RESIDENCES IN OCOTILLO AFTER PATTERN ENERGY BRINGS WIND PROJECT ONLINE

By Miriam Raftery, videos by Jim Pelley

View video of shadow flicker.

View video of  flashing lights

View lights as seen through photographer's home windows.

December 9, 2012 (Ocotillo) –Ocotillo Express Wind,  built on 12,500 acres of public, formerly protected federal Bureau of Land Management property, is now filled by dozens of towering wind turbines. Each massive turbine flashes red lights all night long. During the day, long blade shadows whirl across the desert sands, so there is no time when beleaguered Ocotillo residents or campers may escape the industrial impacts.


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READER'S EDITORIAL: VISIT MCCAIN VALLEY WHILE YOU CAN STILL ENJOY IT!

By Laurie Baker

December 4, 2012 (McCain Valley) -- This is a warning for those who escape to Cottonwood Campground in McCain Valley for a tranquil and refreshing experience to explore the Great Outdoors:  Your days of enjoyment are numbered.   Wind turbines will soon be invading the area just like the ones in Ocotillo.   The Sunrise Powerlink already obliterates the natural beauty along parts of the 13-mile dirt road to the remote campground.    Building 450-foot tall wind turbines a little more than 1,000 feet away from it will completely destroy its appeal altogether.  


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EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: TOP LOCAL AND STATE NEWS

November 28, 2012  --  (San Diego’s East County)--East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego’s inland regions, published in other media. This week’s top “Roundup” headlines include:

LOCAL/REGIONAL

STATE

Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: DESERT PANORAMA

November 11, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Tom Lemon sent in this photograph of pristine desert before the construction of the wind project in Ocotillo. 


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PATTERN ENERGY SECURES FUNDING FOR COMPLETION OF OCOTILLO EXPRESS WIND PROJECT

By Miriam Raftery

November 10, 2012 (Ocotillo) – North American Development Bank has announced that it has approved a 20-year, $110 million construction loan for completion of Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express wind energy facility.  The bank, which is capitalized by both  the U.S. and Mexican governments, funds projects within 62 miles of the international border. 

SDG&E has signed a 20-year purchase agreement for power from the project, which is on track to become the first renewable energy project to tie into the Sunrise Powerlink, bringing electricity from Imperial Valley to San Diego.


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READER'S EDITORIAL: WHY ISN'T OUR GOVERNMENT PROTECTING US FROM DUST AT OCOTILLO WIND SITE?

By Jim Pelley

Editor’s note: For months,  ECM award-winning photographer and Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley has been documenting clouds of choking dust at  Pattern Energy’s construction site for Ocotillo Express wind energy, where citizen monitors have routinely reported construction without water trucks present and twice resulted in fines on the developer for dust violations.  In this editorial, Pelley asks why the problem continues, raising serious questions for public officials who are supposed to protect public health.  The closest turbine is just 1500 feet from Pelley’s home.

October 9, 2012 --I have been told that they can make dust on this project site as long it is not over 20% opacity for three minutes. If there are a hundred trucks making 15% opacity dust all long day long I don’t understand why this is acceptable, because at the end of the day there are large amounts of dust in the air, it’s very easy to see.


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: A TOWN SURROUNDED

October 8, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Photographer Daren Sefcik visited Ocotillo in May, before construction began on the Ocotillo Express wind project, then returned on October 3.

Through still photos and dramatic panoramic videos that reveal 360 degree views, Sefcik documents turbines dwarfng mountains and looming in close proximity to homes. “The landscape has already been destroyed by Pattern [Energy] and it will never, ever be the same,” he said.


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PROTESTERS HOLD FUNERAL TO MOURN ‘DEATH OF DESERT’ IN OCOTILLO, NOTE IRONY OF PUBLIC LANDS DAY

By Miriam Raftery

October 1, 2012 (Ocotillo) – “This project is completely wrong and it’s unethical,” said Anita Nicklen, one of dozens protesting on National Public Lands Day to draw attention to the destruction of public land in Ocotillo. “It’s our land and they’re building on public land. The desert is crying and weeping and bleeding.”


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JUDGE HAYES DISMISSES RESIDENTS' LAWSUIT OVER OCOTILLO WIND

By Miriam Raftery

September 30, 2012 (Ocotillo ) -- U.S. District Court Judge William Hayes has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship (CARES).  The group sought an injunction to halt construction of the Ocotillo Express wind energy facility on public land.  Hayes ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing.  


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: A WIND FARM RISES

September 21, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- Parke Ewing forwarded these images showing transformation of the desert landscape in Ocotillo, where public outcry and seven lawsuits have thus far failed to stop the Pattern Energy's wind project. 

The first image reveals excavation for just one of the 112 wind turbines; this hole measures 16 feet deep.  In the sunset shot, towering wind turbines now replace the century-old ocotillo forest that once stood here, sacrified for "green" energy.


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TWO NEW LAWSUITS FILED OVER OCOTILLO WIND

By Miriam Raftery

September 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Two new lawsuits were filed September 11, 2012 against federal officials and the U.S. government seeking an injunction to halt construction at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express industrial wind project. 

One suit targets U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act and failing to protect endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep.  Active signs of bighorn activity on the site have been spotted as recently as this week and photos clearly document recent sitings in the heart of the project.

The second suit takes aim at Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Department of Interior officials for ignoring  California Desert Conservation Area protections passed by Congress to conserve fragile desert areas for future generations. This suit alleges that officials also ignored many other laws intended to protect natural and cultural resources, views, archaeological sites, and the health of local residents.


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EDITORIAL: WHEN “GREEN” IS ONLY GREENWASHING

 

 
By Nadin Abbott
 
August 25, 2012 (San Diego's East County) -- Watching activists defend "green wind energy" as if it was the only solution turns my stomach. It is like talking to a wall. Facts, and there are facts, make little difference. Green energy is nice and green energy is good, go blindly hug a wind turbine, seems to be the message.
 
So let me ask these same activists: should Pattern Energy, a division of the Carlyle group, target the Rosecrans National Cemetery for development? How dare I suggest this? Well, it's windy there, in fact, probably more so than Ocotillo.

 


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FEDS DRAW CRITCISM FOR HEARINGS ON SACRED SITES: TRIBES ASK WHY NO RECORDINGS WERE MADE NOR NOTES TAKEN

 

Tribal representatives say Interior Dept.  is not sincere about resolving concerns over sacred site desecrations by renewable energy projects on public lands

By Miriam Raftery

August 21, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)—Why did the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) host the first in a series of five “listening sessions” with Native American leaders ostensibly to address tribal concerns over impacts of renewable energy projects on public lands—yet didn’t bother to take notes or record the sessions?

Why are no listening sessions scheduled in California or anywhere near our state, where some of the most controversial renewable energy projects are being built atop the graveyards of Native Americans’ ancestors?   


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BULLDOZERS SILENCED AS OCOTILLO RESIDENTS TAKE A ‘STAND IN THE SAND”

By Miriam Raftery

August 14, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Like a mirage rippling across the desert, they came.  

A caravan of vehicles rumbled into the Ocotillo Express wind construction site on Saturday, filled with area residents and tribal members from across the southwest prepared to form a blockade to halt the project that is destroying their community.  They came from as far away as Yuma, Arizona, and Los Angeles to take a stand in the sand.

But on this sweltering August morning, the bulldozers were silent—and the protesters claimed victory.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: OCOTILLO SUNRISE

August 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- ECM photographer Jim Pelley shot this beautiful sunrise this morning from the yard at his home in Ocotillo. 

Soon this dramatic landscape may be only a memory, vanished in the dust as towering ocotillo cacti are torn down and replaced by 112 wind turbines, each 500 feet tall. 


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: EAST OF EAST COUNTY


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TAKE A STAND IN THE SAND: PROTESTERS SEEK TO SAVE OCOTILLO & OTHER PUBLIC LANDS FROM DESTRUCTION SATURDAY MORNING


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AWASH IN COMPLAINTS, OCOTILLO RESIDENTS SEEK PROTECTION FROM WIND DEVELOPER’S ACTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

July 24, 2012 (Ocotillo) – On Friday the 13th of July, foaming  floodwaters rushed through the town of Ocotillo, leaving a white chemical residue behind on lawns, streets, and the surrounding desert floor. 

Despite numerous complaints to federal, state and local officials, however, nothing has been done to test the residue or correct a drainage pattern altered by Pattern Energy’s construction at the adjacent Ocotillo Express industrial wind site on Bureau of Land Management property.

The flooding is the latest in a long string of problems tied to Pattern and its subcontractors, which residents say have exhibited a pattern of breaking rules that protect public health and safety, with seemingly no serious consequences. 


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: SPACE INVADERS?

 

July 25, 2012 (Ocotillo) – No, this isn’t the mother ship that’s landed in Ocotillo. It’s another alien power – the first wind turbine foundation poured at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express project.  Photographer Jim Pelley measured a single turbine foundation hole measures 286 feet.


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IBERDROLA’S ANSWER TO WIND TURBINE NOISE? GIVE RESIDENTS NOISE GENERATING MACHINES

By Miriam Raftery

July 20, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Iberdrola Renewables wants to build an industrial wind turbine facility on 15,000 acres in East County’s McCain Valley. 

What happens if neighbors complain of noise?

In Fairfield, New York, weary residents asked town officials to measure noise levels at Iberdrola’s Hardscrabble wind facility. The results found levels above the legal limit of 50 decibels. But instead of reducing the noise, Iberdrola gave noise generating machines to residents in hopes of drowning out the whooshing and whirling turbine sounds. Note: The machine is set at the lowest setting in this audio link.


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DOG TEAMS SEARCH FOR NATIVE AMERICAN REMAINS IN MCCAIN VALLEY , OCOTILLO AND JACUMBA

 

Canines identify dozens of sites in path of wind and power line projects

 

Wind developers “cooperate” with tribes on searches-- but SDG&E refuses to allow dogs on its ECO-Substation site

 

 

Story by Miriam Raftery

Photos by Tom and Nadin Abbott, Miriam Raftery, and Jim Pelley

July 18, 2012 (McCain Valley) – Weaving across cactus-studded terrain in McCain Valley, Piper, a border collie trained to find ancient human remains, pauses to sniff the ground.  Ears erect, he sits, alerting handler Lynne Engelbert, who records the GPS coordinates. (Click video to view.) Minutes later, Piper’s find is independently confirmed by a second search dog.


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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: STORM OVER OCOTILLO

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Jim Pelley

July 15, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- Photographer Jim Pelley captured this inspiring image of sunbeams illuminating the proverbial silver lining of this storm cloud over the desert in Ocotillo.

There is a tragic irony to this spectacular image, however.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: HORNED DESERT LIZARD

 

June 20, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- Photographer Jim Pelley snapped this image of a horned desert lizard, whose camouflaged appearance blends right in with its desert surroundings. Pelley spotted the reclusive reptile on the site of the Ocotillo Express wind energy facility, which is now under construction.


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GROUP FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST PATTERN ENERGY AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, ALLEGES "ILLEGAL" ACTIONS OVER OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT

 

By Miriam Raftery

Government accused of illegally approving “ineligible” project that failed to meet minimum federal wind speed standards

Violations of other laws alleged, including discrimination against low-income residents

June 20, 2012 (Ocotillo) –A fourth lawsuit seeking to halt the Ocotillo Express wind facility has been filed in federal court.  The plaintiff in this case, Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship, filed suit yesterday against Pattern Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management and top government officials.

The suit, which seeks a permanent enjoinment or halt to the project, differs from prior lawsuits filed by other groups on several fronts.


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ALL-NIGHT WAKE: PUBLIC IMPLORED TO JOIN TRIBES AT OCOTILLO WIND SITE


East County Magazine to form carpools from San Diego to desert vigil June 23-24

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) –  As bulldozers raze their ancestors’ graves, Native American tribes across the southwest are asking for the public’s help to stop the desecration. 

If you believe this heartbreak funded by taxpayer dollars is wrong, please join with tribes of all nations to take a spiritual stand together against despoilment of these once protected desert lands for private corporate gain.

Determined to halt the Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express wind energy project, tribes of all nations will gather for a traditional dusk-to-dawn ceremony to mourn disruption of their ancestors' burial sites. From 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 23 to dawn on Sunday, June 24, members of the public are encouraged to join with Native American neighbors in the Ocotillo desert for these spiritual ceremonies.


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TRIBAL MEMBERS HOLD VIGIL AT OCOTILLO WIND SITE

Public asked to join with tribes on June 23



“The snake was moved but kept coming back, just like our people.  We will continue to keep coming back.” – Preston Arrowweed, Quechan elder. He believes unusual animal visitations at site are signs from Indian spirits, asking his people to help.

By Miriam Raftery

Jim Pelley, Denee ‘Estevane’ Woolley, and Susan Massey also contributed to this report

June 7, 2012 (Ocotillo)—Neither blistering heat nor blowing dust dissuaded Native Americans from at least four tribes from taking part in a five-day occupation in Ocotillo last week. 

They came to be with the spirits of their ancestors.  They also aim to show that desert devastation occurring with construction of the Ocotillo Express wind facility is wrong and must be stopped. 


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