Saturday, September 24, 2011

A letter to the BLM from the former superintendent of Anza- Borrego Desert State Park regarding the proposed Ocotillo Express Wind Turbine Project.

Here is an open letter from a person very knowledgeable and experienced who is opposing this renewable energy project.

It is one thing for me to go on about the damage caused by these projects, being an amateur and a bus driver, and quite another when someone of gravitas, and with a lifetime of knowledge working in the effected area, weighs

The only editing by me was to delete the writer’s address in the heading.

Here is the letter, otherwise in its’ entirety:

Mr. Cedric Perry, Project Manager
U. S. Bureau of Land Management
22835 Calle San Juan de Los Lagos
Moreno Valley, CA 92553
Mark Jorgensen

September 22, 2011
Mr. Cedric Perry:
Thank you for the opportunity to voice my deep concerns on the Ocotillo
Express Wind Turbine Project, proposed by BLM and Pattern Energy.
I recently retired as the Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State
Park. I worked for State Parks at Anza-Borrego since 1972, studying
desert bighorn sheep, working as a State Park Ranger, Park Naturalist,
Resource Ecologist, Environmental Scientist, and for the last eight
years of my career, the Park Superintendent.
I am astounded the Ocotillo Express Wind Project has been proposed in
this location, with total disregard for the natural and cultural
resources of our desert.
BLM has the mandate to protect our public lands, and in this case I
believe your agency has failed us. Under the California Desert
Conservation Plan, BLM designated the area as “Limited Use”, meaning
vehicles are restricted to existing trails. This was determined after
years of public input and review. Now, here is a proposal to destroy
13,000 acres of our public lands for a private industrial investment
zone. This site will be desecrated, but so will hundreds of thousands of
acres of surrounding lands with their viewshed qualities destroyed.
So, we Americans are being asked to give Pattern Energy 13,000 acres of
our precious land. Why is BLM advocating for a private company, and not
for the protection of lands it’s legally obligated to manage? What will
we citizens get out of this deal? Discounted electrical rates? Private
industry taking over our land, producing energy, and we will be paying
some of the highest electrical rates in the Nation, thanks to SDG&E,
Pattern Energy, and our own BLM.
I read the environmental impact documents to see how this project would
affect the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, only yards from the project,
with a common boundary of more than five miles. What a surprise to find
Anza-Borrego’s impacts had not even been considered in the development
of this proposal. No detailed analysis—not a single Key Observation
Point considered for visual impacts! The State Park had to make critical
comments on previous drafts in order to have KOP’s within the Park
analyzed—and then only when the Park staff did all the work. Why did the
BLM not consider impacts to the largest State Park in the contiguous
United States? What of the newly designated Cultural Preserve at Piedras
Grandes, just west of Ocotillo Express? Was there any consideration
given to this Sacred Site? What of the wildlife corridors? What of the
desert bighorn sheep?
I stood just inside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and tried to imagine
the sea of 450’ tall steel towers looming above me. What I saw was an
IRON CURTAIN, a massive industrial mega-complex conceived by some
money-hungry mongers from another world. BLM sanctions this proposal?
Who is BLM representing here, the citizens of the United States, or
Pattern Energy? From what I observed at the “Open House” in Ocotillo, it
certainly is clear BLM is a partner of the private developer, Pattern
Energy, and not the citizens.
In reading the Wildlife Impacts Section of the Document I considered the
impacts to the desert bighorn sheep, which I have studied here since
1967. I found it convenient that the USF&WS had just recently
Undesignated a huge swath of Critical Habitat in this region, just in
time for the Ocotillo Express to be able to state their project is not
within Critical Habitat. So much for the Endangered Species Act.
Mitigation for bighorn sheep? How about NOT building wind turbines
within bighorn habitat, or within wildlife movement corridors?
What of the 14 FTHL’s observed on-site, which means there are actually
many more? What of the golden eagles which use this desert site for
foraging ? An average of sixty golden eagles are killed each year at the
Altamont Pass Wind Generation site, near San Jose. SIXTY a year!! It
takes 10-20% of all the golden eagle nests in CA to supply that sixty
birds killed in one wind generator project! What of the CA Condors being
restored in N. Baja? One was documented traveling into the US, as far as
Cuyamaca and Anza-Borrego. What of the 16 burrowing owls, and the W.
Mastiff Bats, both listed as BLM Sensitive Species? BLM should be
ashamed of approving this environmental document for public release.
The analysis results in a wildlife monitoring system to take care of
wildlife concerns----So, they’re going to monitor the death of countless
birds species, monitor all the dead bats, pick up the dead golden
eagles, Swainson’s hawks, burrowing owls, and peregrine falcons?---at
least we’ll know how many were killed in this travesty of “Green
Energy”. I call it RED Energy, for all the bloodshed it will be
responsible for. The radar based “early warning system” is a ridiculous
excuse for monitoring bird movements in the region, as is the
“observation tower staffed by a professional biologist”. How can one
person stationed in an observation tower possibly watch over 13,000
acres? The observer cannot see birds, even large raptors, from across
the project landscape. These are tactics created to appease the critics,
rather than provide a measure of safety for wildlife of the area.
About 155 wild turbines are now proposed for this project. According to
sources it is estimated that 6-7% of all energy sent into a 500Kv
powerline such as the Sunrise Powerlink is lost in transmission. This
means that 6% of all the energy generated by the wind turbines will be
wasted---their electrical generation lost on the trip to SD---sparking
into space, or someone’s backyard. Energy generated by nine wind
turbines, built at huge expense will be wasted---forever…….How many
acres will they cover, how many birds will they kill in their 30 year life?
This is yet another vote for not building Ocotillo Express, and putting
the money and energy into rooftop solar power generation where it will
be used---in the city.
The “Public Meeting” sponsored in August 2011 in Ocotillo was not really
a public meeting, but an “Open House”. I received a press release
entitled, “Public Meeting”. Public testimony was not accepted, or
welcome. The BLM staff and representatives of Pattern Energy made it
easy on themselves that night, not having to answer questions in public,
or having to listen to testimony of the 75 members of the public who
were prepared to offer their opinions in the public forum. I found this
meeting a waste of my time and gas, in that I drove 170 miles round-trip
to attend. We, the members of the public, were offended by this sham of
a public meeting.
We moved to this desert because we love it. We fight to protect it.
Energy should be developed in the regions where it will be consumed, not
hundreds of miles away and then wastefully transported into the cities.
This project is an insult to us, and I hope this IRON CURTAIN,
mega-industrial complex never exists.
Mark C. Jorgensen, Borrego Springs, CA

Thanks to Mr. Jorgensen for putting his views on the record opposing this
project, and for also highlighting the “public meeting” process, which is to
the BLM’s way of thinking, we will tell you what we are going to do, and you
will just sit there and listen.