Neighbors of the proposed Strauss Wind Energy Project south of Lompoc have filed legal action challenging the adequacy of the environmental review, calling it “inadequate, insufficient and misleading.”
George and Cheryl Bedford, represented by Santa Maria attorney Richard Adam Jr., have strongly opposed the wind farm planned for 3,000 acres off San Miguelito Road.
Listed as respondents, or defendants, were the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and unnamed others.
BayWa r.e. Wind, LLC has proposed creating a commercial wind farm with 29 wind turbine generators along with support facilities and equipment.
“The project’s enormity cannot be overstated,” the legal action filed Feb. 21 says.
A petition for a writ of mandate includes one side of the issue. County attorneys are expected to file a response in coming weeks.
Many of the issues raised in the legal challenge also were brought up during public hearings before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission in November and Board of Supervisors last month. The Bedfords and two groups appealed planners’ approval.
The wind farm’s towers would be up to 492 feet tall with blades nearly 225 feet in length, or three-fourths the length of a football field and half as wide.
“Stated differently, most of these structures will be 50 stories tall, taller than any other building between Los Angeles and San Jose (by a wide margin) and almost 200 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty (which stands at 305 feet tall),” the legal complaint says.
This is not the first wind farm planned near the Bedfords’ home. The Lompoc Wind Energy Project nearly 10 years ago also was challenged after approval and ultimately abandoned.
That proposal included twice the number of wind tower generators, but they would have been shorter.
When Strauss submitted its application for the same site, authorities chose to update the previous study, leading to a supplemental environmental impact report, or SEIR, despite objections.
“Petitioner has no plain, speedy or adequate remedy in the course of ordinary law unless this court grants this petition and requires respondent to set aside its approval of the project and SEIR. In the absence of such remedies, respondent’s approval will remain in effect in violation of state law.”
Specifically, the legal petition contends approval of the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act.
The complaint says the supplemental EIR “contained an incomplete, insufficient and misleading project description, all of which undermined the adequacy of the SEIR’s analysis of environmental impacts.”
The Bedfords also challenged aspects that would allow the wind tower generators to be “micro-sited” or “shifted” anywhere within a 100-foot radius of a proposed location.
Noting the terrain in the area, the legal action says the shift could cause an elevation increase of up to 50 feet, potentially causing “significant impacts” not included in environmental review.
“The precise location of each WTG was, and is, fundamentally necessary to determine the actual environmental impacts associated with the project and comply with CEQA,” the petition says.
A condition added by the Board of Supervisors called for ensuring two wind turbines aren’t placed closer to the Bedfords’ residence if BayWa decides during construction that the location must change.
The Bedfords also claimed the approved SEIR violated CEQA by deferring both environmental assessment and potentially necessary mitigation.
The petition also claims the document failed to properly analyze project alternatives, especially the one deemed the least environmentally intrusive by placing the wind tower generators away from ridge lines. This option would reduce or eliminate potential environmental impacts associated with aesthetics and bird strikes.
During the Board of Supervisors hearing in January, a Strauss representative likened moving wind tower generators off ridges to placing solar panels in the shade.
The petition asks a judge to set aside approval of the SEIR and calls for suspending all activity on the project while preparing, circulating and considering a new environmental review. The Bedfords also asked to be reimbursed for their legal costs.
The wind farm would produce 98 megawatts, or enough energy to power 43,000 homes, and would generate tax revenue of $40 million for county coffers over 30 years. Some 150 construction jobs will be created and up to seven employees would be needed once it’s operating.