Storey County residents denounce windmill project
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
VIRGINIA CITY ” Storey County residents told the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday that a proposed windmill project would ruin the tourist-based economy in Virginia City and surrounding areas.
Jane Peterson, bureau energy project manager, said in a presentation to the Storey County Planning Commission that public comments collected since November have been split on whether to allow Reno-based Great Basin Wind to build about 70 windmills on BLM land in Storey and Washoe counties.
But the audience packed in the small county courtroom spoke against the project. Residents applauded several of the people who denounced the project.
Joe Curtis, a board member of the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority, said residents should be skeptical of the BLM, which he said already seems to have decided to support the project.
He said the sight of the windmills on the Virginia Range, about 18 of which will be inside Storey County, will be “significant.”
“I would foresee it as the future demise of tourism in Storey County,” he said.
The BLM will make the final decision in late 2010, Peterson said.
It will listen closely to the concerns of residents while it studies the possible impacts of the New Comstock Wind Energy Project, Peterson said.
The company also wouldn’t pick the area unless it had to, said Rich Hamilton, company president.
Wind is like a mineral, he said. It has to be the right kind in the right place for a company to invest in it, he said.
The $200 million to $400 million project could generate energy for thousands of homes, according to Great Basin Wind.
But visitors come to Virginia City for the tourism and the scenery, said Tom Gray, whose family runs a private tourist train in the county.
The history from the 19th-century mining boom is “incredible” and the county should “preserve the integrity of the Comstock Lode,” he said.
Storey County residents, staff and commissioners have questioned the project since it was announced last year.
The windmills would be 210 to 330 feet tall, have 115- to 170-foot-long blades and require 20 miles of underground electric lines.
The project also would include a five-mile transmission line connecting to a substation in Carson City.
The bureau will talk about the project next to the planning commissions of Carson City on Wednesday and Washoe County on March 3.
– Contact reporter Dave Frank at email@example.com or 881-1212.