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Embarrassing Snafu at Ocotillo Express Wind Project

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Oops! | Photo courtesy Ocotillo Wind Turbine Destruction
 

A photo making the rounds of social media may prove embarrassing to Pattern Energy, the developer of the huge Ocotillo Express Wind project in Imperial County. The photo, which we've embedded here, shows a recycling truck for one of the project's contractors dug in to the rims on land clearly marked as a BLM habitat restoration area.

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According to the moderators of the "Ocotillo Wind Turbine Destruction" Facebook page, set up by local opponents of the 315-megawatt wind facility at the southwest corner of Imperial County near Anza Borrego, the flatbed truck was hauling a dumpster used to recycle high-voltage electrical wire cutoffs. When it ventured off the approved road onto a BLM ecological restoration area, the truck apparently hit a patch of soft soil and dug itself in.

Restoration of disturbed areas in the California desert is crucial if renewable energy developers are to live up to their promises not to damage more desert than is strictly necessary, and driving a multi-ton truck onto an area that's been clearly marked as a restoration area from which vehicles are excluded is not the best way to facilitate that restoration. ReWire was unable to learn of the fate of the stuck truck by press time.

This isn't the first time that reports have surfaced of workers at the Ocotillo Express Wind site failing to hew to the highest standards of professionalism. In February, Pattern's construction manager Russell Scott Graham was arrested by Imperial County Sheriffs deputies after allegedly assaulting and threatening Parke Ewing, a local opponent of the project. A local judge granted Ewing a protective injunction in March forbidding Graham from contacting Ewing or owning firearms for as long as the construction project lasted.

The Ocotillo Express Wind project, which occupies more than 12,000 acres of land on the southeast edge of Anza Borrego Desert State Park, will include 112 turbines when it's completed in June -- assuming the crews manage to avoid getting any more equipment stuck in the desert sand.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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