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Blowin' in the wind; Proposed wind turbine project stirs debate

Silver City residents expressed mixed reactions after learning recently of a proposed wind turbine project for the nearby ridge lines. Residents weighed the greenness of wind power with the amount of visual pollution that the tall towering structures could bring to the popular 1860s-era tourist destination communities in the Comstock Historic District, which is also designated a National Historic District. The proposed project would also affect the views of people living in Washoe Valley. Great Basin Wind, LLC's new Comstock project was discussed during the September Silver City Town Board meeting's public comment segment.

Silver City residents expressed mixed reactions after learning recently of a proposed wind turbine project for the nearby ridge lines.

Residents weighed the greenness of wind power with the amount of visual pollution that the tall towering structures could bring to the popular 1860s-era tourist destination communities in the Comstock Historic District, which is also designated a National Historic District.

The proposed project would also affect the views of people living in Washoe Valley.

Great Basin Wind, LLC's new Comstock project was discussed during the September Silver City Town Board meeting's public comment segment.

Silver City resident Ron Reno told those present that he learned of the project which includes placing a wind farm of about 70 three-bladed wind turbines on Bureau of Land Management property along Virginia Range ridge lines from Geiger Summit to McClellan Peak, just east of Washoe Valley and west of Virginia City. Reno said he is in no way orchestrating an opposition group.

"It's important that people have information about things of this magnitude with enough time to decide if it is a good thing or not. Wind power generation is a wonderful thing, but not in... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Silver City residents expressed mixed reactions after learning recently of a proposed wind turbine project for the nearby ridge lines.

Residents weighed the greenness of wind power with the amount of visual pollution that the tall towering structures could bring to the popular 1860s-era tourist destination communities in the Comstock Historic District, which is also designated a National Historic District.

The proposed project would also affect the views of people living in Washoe Valley.

Great Basin Wind, LLC's new Comstock project was discussed during the September Silver City Town Board meeting's public comment segment.

Silver City resident Ron Reno told those present that he learned of the project which includes placing a wind farm of about 70 three-bladed wind turbines on Bureau of Land Management property along Virginia Range ridge lines from Geiger Summit to McClellan Peak, just east of Washoe Valley and west of Virginia City. Reno said he is in no way orchestrating an opposition group.

"It's important that people have information about things of this magnitude with enough time to decide if it is a good thing or not. Wind power generation is a wonderful thing, but not in the Comstock Historic District," Reno said.

If placed on the ridge lines as the company's proposal filed with the BLM denotes, the wind "turbines would be highly visible from Virginia City, Gold Hill and American Flat," Reno said.

Conflict with historic district

The majority of the wind turbine towers would be installed within the National Historic District and about half would be located in the Comstock Historic District.

The company's map shows the ridgeline above American Flat (above Mound House and to the west of Gold Hill) where tracks are being laid for the reconstruction of the V&T Railroad as one location where turbines would be visible on the Comstock side of the mountain range.

Another cluster on the map places turbines atop Scott Peak above Virginia City where the Virginia City High School's giant white V is on the mountainside, and others would be visible from Gold Hill.

Ken Nelson, realty specialist with the BLM Carson City Field Office explained the lengthy process that Great Basin Wind must go through before the agency could issue a right-of-way grant authorizing the company to construct the project.

Nelson said BLM must first file a notice of intent, which they are compiling. Then the bureau will contract for an environmental impact statement, which will study noise, radar, telecommunications, watershed and other elements the project could impact.

These studies, Nelson said, could take 18-24 months to complete. Nelson noted that part of the study would include impact on wildlife and bird and bat migration patterns and flyways.

Next step: public meetings

Nelson said if everything falls into place, BLM will schedule public meetings in all three counties where the towers would be placed: Washoe, Storey and Carson City, and maybe in Lyon County's Silver City. The meetings could be as early as the end of the year or early in 2009.

Public meetings are scheduled early in the evaluation process to gather input from affected communities.

"We need to know what the public believes are issues before we can move to the next step of the process," Nelson said.

"We have a process, and as far as any actual construction could even begin, it would be sometime in 2010 at the earliest," Nelson said.

Comstock Historic District Administrator Bert Bedeau said the commission was informally notified of the proposed wind farm and that he was invited by the BLM to a meeting.

Bedeau said any structure to be built in the historic district must be approved by the district. From what he can tell about the wind farm project, nearly half of the wind turbines are planned for placement in the district.

"The real trick is how they could disguise the thing so it would be in compliance with the district's requirements," he said.

Formal application needed

Bedeau said the applicant, or BLM on behalf of the applicant, must make a formal application to the historic district. After that happens, he said the application would then be reviewed and agendized for a future meeting.

He said the federal government would also need to make a decision on the project based on any impact the wind farm might have on the National Landmark District.

The BLM's field office manager will ultimately make the decision whether or not the company can proceed with construction of the wind farm project, Nelson said.

According to documents filed with the BLM, Great Basin Wind estimates the project construction will take about six months to complete.

Rich Hamilton is president of Great Basin Wind. He has lived in the region for 12 years and owns 10 percent of Great Basin Wind LLC. Hamilton has partnered with Oak Creek Energy out of Southern California (Escondido and Mojave) for the project. According to Oak Creek's Web site, the company built one of California's first wind farms 25 years ago.

The site said that today's wind farms use larger, taller turbines that rotate slower to create more power and impact wildlife less.

Numerous calls to Hamilton over the past two weeks were not returned.


Source: http://www.rgj.com/apps/pbc...

SEP 26 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/17247-blowin-in-the-wind-proposed-wind-turbine-project-stirs-debate
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