Santa Barbara County approves wind farm with protections for birds

From Santa Barbara Audubon Conservation Chair Steve Ferry: 

"On September 30 the Santa Barbara Planning Commission approved the Lompoc Wind Energy Project (LWEP).  The project includes 65 wind turbine generators (WTGs) producing about 1.5 MW each on 3000 acres of private grazing land about 5 miles south of Lompoc.                  

This milestone is the culmination of approximately two years of effort by Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center (EDC), Santa Barbara Audubon Society (SBAS), La Purisima Audubon Society (LPAS), and Los Angeles Audubon Society (LAAS).  EDC and the three Audubon chapters made extensive comments on the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports and had numerous meetings with the County, the applicant, and their consultants.  As a result of those efforts, the Biological Resources section of the DEIR was completely re-written and significant protections to the environment were added. 

Just in the last week the County staff, at the urging of EDC and the Audubon chapters, inserted a requirement that parts of the project could be shut down if there were excessive bird mortalities.  This provision was a major goal of the environmental groups.  During the Planning Commission meeting EDC and Audubon advocated for strengthening of the shutdown provision, a longer period of bird mortality monitoring, offsite land easements, and additional protection for burrowing owls.  Our positions were supported by the Sierra Club, the Santa Barbara Community Action Network, and in part by the Community Environmental Council.  In the end, the Commission voted to extend the mortality monitoring and strengthen the shutdown provision.

 The approval of LWEP is a significant environmental achievement.  The project will produce enough clean energy to power about 50,000 homes.  The reduction of greenhouse gasses as a result of this project, if replicated across the country, will reduce global warming - a major threat to the survival of birds.  And the protections added to the project as a result of the efforts of EDC, SBAS, LPAS, and LAAS ensure that the environmental impacts of LWEP will be minimized.

 Special thanks for a long, sustained, and effective effort to those who worked on this project: Karen Kraus and Brian Trautwein of EDC, Steve Ferry of SBAS, Tam Taaffe and Paul Keller of LPAS, Garry George of LAAS, and Mark Holmgren.  Thanks also to Kris Burnell, former SBAS Science Chair, for her contributions."