East County Group sues to stop wind project on Campo Indian Reservation

Wind turbines dot the landscape along Interstate 8 in eastern San Diego County. (Michael Schuerman/KPBS)

One of the largest renewable energy projects to be proposed in San Diego County is embroiled in a second lawsuit alleging environmental violations.

At stake is a project to build 60 wind turbines on the Campo Indian reservation as well as a substation and a switchyard on private land near the boulevard.

East County resident Donna Tisdale and her group, Backcountry Against Dumps, sued this month in San Diego Superior Court to overturn the county Board of Supervisors’ unanimous approval of the project in March.

inewsource is an independent, nonprofit journalism organization in San Diego, and relies on grants and philanthropists to support its investigative content. Click here to find out more.

The lawsuit claims the county’s environmental review does not fully analyze the project’s impact on noise, wildfire risk, golden eagles and groundwater in the area. He also claims that the project goes against zoning rules.

Tisdale hopes the combination will prevent construction of the wind farm.

“I want when people talk about wind turbines and solar projects, they stop and consider where they are being proposed and how it will affect this ground zero community,” she said.

Through a spokesperson, the county declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Developer Terra-Gen, which did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, says the Campo Wind project will provide clean energy to more than 70,000 homes and tens of millions of dollars to the Campo Band of the Indians of the Diegueño mission. The tribe agreed to lease land from the company for the turbines for at least 25 years.

The location of the Campo Wind project on the Campo Indian Reservation is shown on this map from the San Diego County Development Environmental Review. Click here for a more detailed map. (Courtesy of San Diego County)

Craig Pospisil, who leads the company’s wind development efforts, told supervisors before approving proposed facilities for the private land that the project is “probably one of the county’s most important decisions to combat the climate change and mitigate its impact on some”. of our most vulnerable communities.

Pospisil said the turbines would create enough power to displace about 58,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That’s roughly the equivalent of taking 12,600 passenger cars off the road, according to a US Environmental Protection Agency calculator.

Before supervisors voted, council chairman Nathan Fletcher said few county actions received unanimous support. He said it “warms my heart” to move forward with the project as it will help achieve a 100% renewable energy goal, comes with a working agreement and has support tribal.

East County and Renewable Energy Projects

Dozens of wind turbines already dot the sunny, windswept ridges and valleys in the southeast corner of the county, including on the Campo Reservation on Interstate 8.

More are in the pipeline as renewable energy developers seek to meet California’s goal of having 100% clean energy by 2045: Within 13 miles of the Campo Wind project, four solar projects and two wind projects are in preparation.

In addition to 60 wind turbines, the Campo Wind project would add meteorological towers, water collection and a septic system, as well as transmission lines. The turbines would also be connected to the power grid through a new substation and switchyard on private land northeast of the reservation, a project dubbed the Boulder Brush Facilities.

Tisdale, a frequent player in the fight against backcountry energy projects, lives with her husband, Joe, on a ranch in Boulevard that shares a half-mile boundary with the reservation and the proposed wind project. She likes to say that they lived a combined 100 years in the area.

She fears the wind turbines will disrupt the calm and serenity of the neighborhood and hurt the value of the couple’s home. She also fears that the turbines could harm the health of her 82-year-old husband, who has a pacemaker.

Donna Tisdale is shown at her Boulevard ranch, September 28, 2015. (Nicholas McVicker/KPBS)

Tisdale has spoken to county leaders about her concerns at town hall meetings as president of the Boulevard Community Planning Group, which advises the county on land use decisions. But when supervisors approved the project, she said, they didn’t even mention the burden on the community.

“It’s just a real slap in the face,” she said.

Her latest lawsuit is the second she and her husband have filed for the wind project. Last July, she sued in federal court, claiming the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs violated the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Birds Treaty Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act when he approved the Campo tribe’s lease to house the turbines.

The judge has scheduled a hearing in the case for May 13.

Tisdale also successfully petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to reconsider its earlier decision that the 586-foot turbines would not pose a hazard to air navigation. The agency told Tisdale’s attorney in a December letter that a new review would be conducted due to “past errors in the aeronautical study process.”

The Campo tribe wants the project

Marcus Cuero, president of the Campo Band of Indians at the Diegueño Mission, said opposition from Tisdale and some of his tribesmen has made the process cumbersome and delaying construction of the project.

“I don’t understand the whole reason why they are against it,” he said. “In my opinion, it adds value to the community.”

The tribe voted to approve the lease, which has not been made public, in April 2018.

In March, Terra-Gen had already paid out over $1 million to the tribe and was due to make another payment this month. He also awarded 15 scholarships and offered jobs to 14 tribal members, according to court records.

Cuero said new source he sees the development as an opportunity to fund tribal priorities such as internet access, housing, health care and education, although no plan has been set on how to spend the revenue from rental.

“We want to be self-sufficient, and I think this project is helping us in the right direction for better self-sufficiency,” he said.

Wind turbines dot the landscape along Interstate 8 in eastern San Diego County. (Michael Schuerman/KPBS)

But not all 310 members of the Campo tribe support the lease.

After the tribe voted, Michelle Cuero, whose husband is the president’s brother, helped draft a petition against the wind project that 65 tribesmen signed. They argue they had no say when the tribe approved the lease.

For Cuero, the opposition is personal. She said wind turbines are expected to tower over her home, disrupting the property she inherited from her father and had planned to pass on to her four children and 10 grandchildren, most of whom live on the reserve.

“What I want is our land,” she said. “They are not going to pay us enough money to move and abandon our reservation to move elsewhere. How can we do this? So my deal is just to stop and let us live and let live.

A Superior Court hearing in Tisdale’s lawsuit against the county is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Show comments

Nohemi M. Moore