More residents speak out against Blue Marmot

A second hearing for the Goal 3 exception requested for the proposed Blue Marmot solar facility was held Wednesday, Oct. 20. Members of the public again had the chance to voice their thoughts on the project.

Blue Marmot Project Mgr. Logan Day announced near the start of the meeting that, following feedback from Lake County residents, Blue Marmot had obtained permission to alter the planned design of its project so that no construction will take place west of the ravine on the project’s southern parcel.

Day also used his opening comments to address a claim brought forward by Lake County resident Amanda O’Bryan during the previous Blue Marmot hearing. O’Bryan had said representatives of EDP Renewables — the company that owns Blue Marmot — approached students at a Lakeview High School volleyball game in an attempt to drum up support for the project.

Day said at no point did EDP ever set foot on school grounds and “only ever knowingly approached full-grown adults” when conducting its door-to-door to campaign.

Local resident Jody Graham spoke later in the meeting and said her son had been approached by EDP Renewables and told her it had occurred outside on school grounds.

Other concerns brought up by members of the public during the meeting included whether the cultural resource survey of the proposed project site commissioned by EDP was sufficient, that EDP is taking advantage of Lake County’s outdated renewable energy regulations, the agricultural value of the land proposed for the project being greater than the value solar would bring, whether area tribes were properly consulted about the project, that proper models of the project have not been presented, and what the project would mean for property values in the area.

Many of the people who commented during the first Goal 3 exception hearing for Blue Marmot provided comment again, but there were also a number of people who spoke who had not attended the previous meeting.

Jack Vernon, who currently leases part of the land Blue Marmot will be built on if the project is approved, said he had farmed 80 to 100 acres of the land in the past and added that it has also been home to 75-100 antelope. He said if the project goes through, it will make it more difficult to find places to put cattle.

Local realtor Richard Bradbury said he had attempted to sell a property on Rabbit Hill Road the previous week and had to disclose that a solar project might be installed on the surrounding property. When the potential buyer was informed of that possibility, Bradbury said they backed out. He said companies like EDP are extracting Lake County’s resources and not paying enough.

Clark Maxwell said his family has been in Lake County since the 1870s and that it is important to save the wide open spaces in the area that have been depleted over the years. He said the economic gain for the County will never replace what will be lost if the Blue Marmot project is installed.

He claimed that some of the last remaining bitterbrush habitat would be removed if the project moves forward. Many members of the public voiced concerns about potentially detrimental effects the project could have on wildlife.

Commissioner James Williams said he is “not personally comfortable” with the 1.8:1 habitat mitigation ratio that EDP has committed to for the project. A 2:1 ratio is the precedent for other solar projects in the county, he said — a precedent he feels it is important to maintain.

Max Yoklic, an attorney with Stoel Rives — the Portland-based law firm representing EDP — said it is within the County’s discretion to determine the appropriate mitigation ratio and that EDP will comply with the conditions the County places on the project. He pointed out that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed to the 1.8:1 ratio. ODFW District Biologist Jon Muir later clarified that while ODFW had agreed to 1.8:1, it had recommended 2:1.

Commissioner Barry Shullanberger brought up the decommissioning bond EDP said it would have in place for Blue Marmot prior to construction and asked what would happen to the bond if the project were to be sold to another company. Yoklic said the new project owner would be required to follow the terms of the project’s conditional use permit, and that the County could outline specific terms for the decommissioning bond in the conditional use permit.

Commissioner Mark Albertson brought up his concern that approximately 19% of EDP is owned by the Chinese government, noting, “I don’t want to do business with communist China.”

Day said that China Three Gorges Corporation owns a “non-controlling share” of EDP and has no vote in how EDP does business.

Day said EDP’s agreement with Portland General Electric states that Blue Marmot must be operational by the end of 2022.

The final hearing for the Goal 3 exception will be held Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. While it will be open to the public, no public comment will be allowed.

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