UPDATE DEC 2020: Walker Ridge continues to be threatened by wind development, but conservationists are working with Representative John Garamendi to permanently protect the area either as an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” or in some other fashion. As of this writing, conservationists are exploring options for protecting the area with Mr. Garamendi in 2021. It is high time for the threats for Walker Ridge to end and for the region to be managed to protect and restore its rare plant habitat and other environmental and social values.
ORIGINAL POST: The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is situated only a couple hours from the Bay Area and Sacramento, and was designated in 2015. It is a place of dramatic plate tectonic geology and is a biological hot spot and a wildlife migratory corridor.
CalWild worked closely with local and state partners from the earliest point of the campaign. It was a proud moment for all those involved and a unique designation for the region. Since then local groups have continued to work for good management policies and greater investment in the national monument.
Now, a major threat has re-emerged that is particularly troubling. Canadian firm Algonquin Power and Utility wants to build an industrial wind development project on Walker Ridge. The project would include 42 industrial wind turbines standing up to 676 feet to the top of rotors. Also, in order to get the machinery up to the ridge the 20-foot road would be widening to 75-feet and turns greatly increased in size. The road and transmissions lines would traverse two Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and a parcel purchased with funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. As proposed, the development project will be directly adjacent to Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.
Walker Ridge is located on the Lake and Colusa county line just north of Highway 20 that runs from Williams to Clear Lake. Walker Ridge is largely undisturbed and was considered as a potential wilderness area in CalWild’s 2001 Citizen Wilderness Inventory. Walker Ridge is largely serpentinite and serpentine soils. Many rare and endemic plant species have evolved to only grow on these soils. The area includes three BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and the California Native Plant Society submitted a proposal to designate all of Walker Ridge as an ACEC.
Walker Ridge has been the subject of numerous wind development projects over the past 20 years. All wind proposals to date have been abandoned we believe due to the marginal value of wind on the ridge.
Nearby is the Cache Creek Wilderness that is also the largest wintering area for bald eagles in California south of the Klamath basin. Wind turbines are notorious for their lethal impacts on birds. And, the region is an important wildlife corridor for animals migrating north and south.
This latest project emerged at the end of 2018 when Colusa Wind (bought by Algonquin) executed an agreement to connect with and sell electricity to PG&E and the California Independent System Operator (ISO). From there the project has moved along the BLM process and is now much closer to becoming a reality.
We all support renewable energy, but projects should be built on previously disturbed lands and not those like Walker Ridge that are largely undisturbed. Walker Ridge is an important wild place for recreation and wildlife. We will continue to monitor and support our local partners as they find ways to object to this destructive project.