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County denies request for health impacts of turbines, even as more are proposed

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: New proposed turbines would be much taller and produce more energy than these older Kumeyaay Wind turbines, also broadening the areas that could be impacted by noise, vibrations, and electromagnetic interefence with devices such as cell phones

December 6, 2018 (Campo) –Tonight, the Bureau of Indian Affairs will hold a scoping meeting on a notice to prepare n environmental impact statement for a proposal to build 60 wind turbines up to 586 feet tall (taller than the highest skyscraper in San Diego) on the Campo Indian reservation. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Campo Tribal Hall, 36190 Church Road (BIA 10) at highway 94 in Campo.  Written comments can also be submitted by December 21st. Find details at

The new Campo Wind project is proposed for most Campo reservation ridgelines from north of I-8 to the U.S./Mexico border, each 4 megawatts.  Neighbors and the Boulevard Planning Group have raised concerns over the large turbines including noise, sleep disruption, health impacts and lost property values.   View flyer.

Minutes of the Boulevard Planning Group meeting from November 1, 2018 reveal numerous residents’ complaints about problems reportedly associated with similarly large-scale wind turbines recently installed at the Tule Wind project in McCain  Valley as well as turbines at the Kumeyaay Wind facility in Campo. Those complaints range from noise and vibrations to interference with cell phone service, a vital concern in an area prone to wildfires where communication is critical.

Multiple residents with Verizon cell phones complained of service disruptions since the turbines went in.  Jeff Morrison of Boulevard said he complained to Verizon and the company sent out an engineer who “blamed it on the Tule wind turbines” since the Morrison previously had good service and the turbines are the only new source of electromagnetic interference (EMI).  Ken Daubach similarly said he’s complained to Verizon and was told EMI interference from turbines could be the cause.

Morrison says his family is unable to open their windows due to loud swooshing sounds of blades and a high-pitched squealing sound. He also reports vibrations felt when standing on the ground at their home. Morrison says he’s seen a record 11 snakes on his front porch and a huge increase in rodents, which he believes could be caused by the animals seeking to flee the noise and vibrations.

Ken Daubach similarly reported an increase of rodents in his yard as well as some floating dead in a horse trough. He wondered if the turbines had killed off raptors, birds of prey, that might normally on the rodents. Kevin Keane complained of turbine noise and another resident reporting hearing a turbine squealing.

Chair Donna Tisdale voiced empathy and frustration that her records search has failed to find the current owner of the Kumeyaay Wind turbines, with one site linking to another that leads to “no information.”   She suggested those affected complain to Tule Wind, the federal Bureau of Land Management, and County of San Diego.  Turbine owners can adjust or curtail individual turbines to address some problems for neighbors.  The planning group in Boulevard has long opposed these projects but has only advisory abilities; state, federal, county and tribal authorities ultimately approved the numerous wind projects in the area.

Tisdale also voiced disappointment that her planning group’s request for the county to conduct a health impact assessment on wind turbines in rural East County has been denied by Mark  Wardlaw at the County’s Planning and Development Services department. His letter states that health impacts will be studied in the Torrey Wind EIR, but Tisdale said the health impact assessment should be separate from EIR literature review.  She also disagreed with Wardlaw’s contention that the county need study only the part of the project in county jurisdiction, omitting the majority of the turbines.  Tisdale contends that the entire project should have impacts analyzed to be compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

The Boulevard Planning Group voted unanimously 7-0 to send a letter in response to Wardlaw.

Meanwhile yet more wind turbines may soon be coming to the area at Tule Wind Phase II, where 24 turbines are slated at the north end pending clearance by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal.


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Wind energy is green

Wind energy is green, an environmentally friendly technology. It has some local impacts too, and those can be serious. That science has debunked many of the health cocerns about low frequency sound is not much solace to people whose property values are impacted over sound, light and view issues. Yet we need to reduce carbon emissions desperately. What I recommend moving forward would be some new regulations on the real estate industry, basically new legal requirements for disclosures on viewshed that help property buyers understand the legal rights of their neighbors or the possibe future uses of nearby hillsides or sky. People should know if someone else has a right to destroy their view. Disclosure is easy. Bottom line is, the Campo Tribe has the right, and anyone can sue anyone (even if they will lose.)

Not all tribes.

Some are good environmental stewards. Barona recycles water for its golf course and has built a LEED-green sustainable tribal headquarters. There's a Kumeyaay land trust that buys and preserves land and habitat. 

Some of the poorer tribes in remote areas have fewer options for revenues to left members out of poverty. The Campo tribe does have a casino though, so one wouldn't think they'd need to do a project that could have negative impacts on neighbors and wildlife.  I don't know how profitable their casino is, though.