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Board to fight shift in authority to state level

January 30, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors will discuss a response to the potential loss of authority it has over geothermal plants.

Under a state proposal, the county could lose its authority over the siting and output of the plants and could also see a decrease in county land-use authority and environmental requirements in approving energy-project applications.

The Board of Supervisors meets in open session at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the County Administration Center, 940 W. Main St., El Centro.

The potential loss of local authority over certain permitting aspects of the geothermal industry is part of the California Energy Commission's February 2000 draft "Report on Improvements to the Energy Commission's Energy Facility Siting Process."

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The report has come in response to legislative requirements found in Assembly Bill 970, which includes energy regulations for the six-month power plant licensing process.

The supervisors will be asked to approve the sending of a letter in opposition to the potential state actions.

The letter states rather than reduce the size of such plants from 50 megawatts to 20 megawatts that the county may approve, the county should be allowed to approve plants up to 250 megawatts of power. The letter also states the county has 25 years experience siting geothermal and biomass plants.

"During this time we have proven time and again that we can correctly site such facilities and do so in an expedited fashion," the county letter states.

There are about 340 megawatts of electricity being produced by geothermal plants in the county.

In other business, the supervisors will be asked to provide direction on how to control damage to crops and the killing of lambs and cattle by animals.

According to a staff report, from September 1999 to April 2000, 1,137 lambs, at a cost of $104,000, were killed by coyotes. Another 832 were killed from mid-September to December 2000.

Farmers have also reported damage to melons, citrus trees, broccoli, cabbage, alfalfa, vegetables, aqua culture from the eating of fish, feed-lot-feed, the contamination of feed and the spread of disease.

The staff report states options include letting producers continue to face the problems on their own; contracting with a wildlife depredation specialist from San Diego County for three months, at a cost of about $7,986 per month; or hiring a full-time wildlife depredation specialist at about $60,000 yearly.

The supervisors will also:

l be asked to approve the negotiation of a $55,000 contract with Dutton Consulting of San Diego to manage the Gateway of the Americas infrastructure work;

l receive an update on efforts of the dairy attraction committee;

l receive an update on farmer participation in the state Williamson Act. To date, 82 preserves and 37,000 acres have been enrolled in the program. The 1965 Williamson Act allows local governments to establish agricultural preserves of at least 100 acres that would qualify the land owners for tax breaks in return for keeping the land in agriculture or open space;

l receive an update on the New River.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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