Clearly conflicted individually and collectively, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to reject controversial plans to build a wind farm project on Monument and Bear River ridges south of Rio Dell.
The vote, which saw supervisors Virginia Bass and Rex Bohn support the project and the balance of the board reject it, came at the conclusion of a more than 16-hour meeting spread over two days that included public comment from hundreds of residents.
A short round of applause followed the vote.
The project, which would have seen 47 600-foot-high wind turbines placed on Bear River and Monument ridges south of Rio Dell and Scotia, was projected to provide enough electricity to supply 56 percent of Humboldt County’s demand. Proponents argued that not only was the project a necessary step to combat the global climate crisis, but it would also be an economic boon to the area, creating 300 construction jobs and 15 permanent positions, while generating millions of dollars in property tax revenue for the county over its 30-year life.
Opponents, meanwhile, argued the project was little more than a green-washed money grab that would harm local bird populations, clear-cut miles of forest, damage a biologically diverse coastal prairie and desecrate a sacred Wiyot prayer site.
The project was officially opposed by the city of Rio Dell, the town of Scotia, the Wiyot Tribe and the Yurok Tribe. It was endorsed by the city of Eureka, the Humboldt Del Norte Building and Construction Trades union and the county planning department, which recommended the board find there were overriding concerns present that trumped the unmitigable environmental impacts that would accompany the project.
After the 3-2 vote described above, staff told the board a passing vote was needed to make the denial official, so a motion was made to flatly reject the project. It passed 4-1, with Bass having joined the majority. She offered no explanation for the shift in position.
Check back for a full report on the marathon meeting.