Posted: Apr 8, 2013 6:18 PM by Nathan O'Neal
Updated: Apr 9, 2013 10:20 AM
WILLCOX - The winds of change are taking over Willcox as a new plan takes shape to construct a windmill farm 20 miles outside of the city -- but it doesn't come without its fair share of controversy.
The plan would allow for Torch Renewable Energy to construct up to 28 wind turbines which measure up to 500 feet tall -- ultimately feeding electricity into Tucson Electric's power grid.
The hope is to start construction late this year. The City of Willcox endorsed the plan; however, some residents are crying foul over the potential impacts to wildlife and the environment.
"The project, it's a wind farm, a small one as far as wind farms go ... that's being developed in the northwestern part of our county," said Willcox City Manager Pat McCourt.
City officials previously expressed their concerns to the company over what the project could mean for the environment. Those concerns were quickly dispelled when the company promised to conduct impact studies.
"After they received the answers they felt comfortable with moving forward and recommending it," McCourt said.
However, that move hasn't satisfied everyone. Steve Marlatt is a member of Wings Over Willcox and he is concerned about the avian wildlife, such as bats and raptors, the turbines could threaten.
"We hope that economic development isn't a one-sided deal ... That we really are weighing the pros and cons of the development," Marlatt told News 4 Tucson.
Marlatt is especially worried that the environment and wildlife impact studies the company has committed to completing, will be done too hastily. He pointed out one study that will be completed just months before construction is set to break ground
While he supports the idea of "clean" and "green" energy, he worries that the community could compromise its environment.
"But are we taking this growth too fast? What's the rush for getting this done? Can we not take an extra year ... Make sure we have all the facts, really look at whether this is the best economic and viable plan to do ... And is it going to be taking care of the wildlife in the best way possible," Marlatt said.
Cochise County still has to approve the project, which expected to be taken up at a meeting on Wednesday. However, before the project can break ground, the company will also have to obtain approval from the state.
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