Chapter 17.70


17.70.010    Purpose and definition.

17.70.020    Application and requirements.

17.70.030    Expedited renewable energy generation project permit process—Purpose and definition.

17.70.040    Application process.

17.70.050    Application fee.

17.70.060    Conditional use permit maintenance.

17.70.010 Purpose and definition.

Any renewable energy project having nameplate capacity equal to or over ten MW shall obtain a renewable energy generation project conditional use permit (CUP). (Renewable energy projects that meet the criteria put forth in this chapter may apply instead for an expedited renewable energy generation project permit.) For the purpose of this chapter “renewable energy” is defined as in NRS 701A.340 as: biomass, fuel cells, geothermal energy, solar energy, wind energy, or water power. (Ord. 11-15-16D § 1)

17.70.020 Application and requirements.

All of the requirements for a conditional use permit (pursuant to Chapter 17.68 HCC) shall be met. If the renewable generation project is located on federal or state land, any appropriate documents related to the environmental review by state of federal land management agencies, if they satisfy the requirements as outlined below, may be submitted in lieu of any of the following, otherwise the application must also include all of the following applicable elements:

A. Project Description. A detailed project description of the proposed renewable energy generation project including a legal description of the property on which the project would be located and any existing easements, including conservation or restrictive use easements, or a preliminary title report;

B. Maps. Maps showing the physical features and land uses of the project area, both before and after construction of the proposed energy project. The applicant must include at least one map of the proposed project site printed on a standard eight-inch by eleven-inch page. The applicant must also include maps, diagrams, or color photographs that show:

1. The project area boundaries;

2. The location, height and dimensions of all existing and proposed structures and fencing including building elevations (in color);

3. Existing topography of the site;

4. Water bodies, waterways, wetlands and drainage channels;

C. Distance Requirements. Applicant must show the location of and distance to surrounding uses that may be affected by the proposed renewable energy generation project. Applicant must also show the location and distance to public or private airports or airstrips. In order to protect existing uses that are adjacent to the project, the proposed facility must be located a specified distance from any adjacent properties that may be impacted by noise or other externalities created by the project. This specified setback distance will be determined by the regional planning department staff and applicant based on project design and its associated safety requirements in conformance with National Electrical Code (NEC), and shall be based on an analysis of the project’s externalities together with the nature of the surrounding uses;

D. Requirements from Other Agencies. Applicant must provide a list of permits, approvals or other actions that the applicant has requested or will request from other government agencies;

E. Transmission. A description of any new transmission or distribution facilities and/or gen-tie (generation to distribution/transmission connection lines) lines that will be built in association with the project;

F. Meteorological or Wind Testing Towers. Provide locations, site map, and height of tower;

G. Travel Routes and RoadsFor Existing and Proposed Roads.

1. A detailed map showing travel routes and roads to and within the proposed site(s) and estimates of traffic loads and quantities both during construction and at buildout/operations phase;

2. County road department staff will determine, in consultation with the applicant, the potential impact and mitigation measures, if any, that will be required of the applicant. Any mitigation requirements shall be proportionate to the impact from the proposed project;

3. All nonpaved temporary or permanent on-site roads and staging areas shall be improved pursuant to county standards or specifications of the Orange Book (standard specifications for public works construction); and

4. During site development and construction, the applicant must regularly water or otherwise mitigate roads and staging areas as necessary to minimize dust and wind erosion;

H. Grading. A technical report, showing that construction and operation of the project including, but not limited to, the development, operation and reclamation of all roads, access corridors, foundation pads, equipment storage and staging areas, and all related facilities, will conform to accepted slope stability requirements and all Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) best management practices (BMPs);

I. Weed Control. A plan for weed control, specifically to hinder the spread of invasive and non-invasive species onto adjacent property. The plan should account for activities during both construction and operation and may include mitigation activities such as wash stations for construction vehicles;

J. Lighting. A plan showing lighting on and around the project and all related facilities including:

1. Lighting mitigation measures that follow “dark sky” lighting practices including but not limited to: all proposed lighting shall be located to avoid light pollution onto any adjacent lands as viewed from a distance; all lighting fixtures shall be hooded and shielded, faced downward, located within soffits and directed onto the pertinent site only, and away from adjacent parcels and areas;

2. The lighting plan should indicate the types of lighting and fixtures, the locations of fixtures, lumens of lighting, and the areas illuminated by the lighting plan;

3. Any required FAA lighting should be consolidated and minimized whenever possible, so long as it still meets FAA requirements and intent;

K. Noise. If applicable, a plan for noise mitigation including buffering if needed to reduce noise impacts—generation equipment shall not emit normal or consistent noise levels in excess of sixty-five DBA time weighted average, as measured at the property line at which the facility is located or one-half mile from the plant, whichever is closer. Adjustments for ambient noise will be made and irregular, short periods of exceedance will be tolerated in association with anomalies or maintenance;

L. Water. The plan shall indicate the amount, place or origin, and place of disposal, if any, of all water and effluent that will be used or reused in connection with construction, management, operation and maintenance of the renewable energy generation project, including water used for drilling, including washing facility components, machine components (i.e., blades), and making concrete for foundation pads and other structures within the facility. Any plan created or measures put in place to meet regulations pursuant to state oversight from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and/or the State Division of Water Resources may be submitted to meet the requirements of this section;

M. Drainage and Erosion Control. A drainage and erosion control plan for construction and operation developed in consultation with Humboldt County. Any plan created or measures put in place to meet regulations pursuant to state oversight from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection may be submitted to meet the requirements of this section;

N. Environmental Impacts. Assurance that the proposed project can be designed, constructed and operated without significant adverse impact to fish, wildlife and native plant resources, including fish and wildlife habitat, migratory routes and state or federally listed threatened or endangered fish, wildlife or plant species;

O. Fire and Emergency Protection. A plan developed in consultation with Humboldt County emergency management, fire department, and fire marshal prior to construction shall address all activities at the proposed project site from the start of construction through operation, and shall result in a response plan to address all identified potential fire, rescue, evacuation and hazardous materials scenarios. Any plan created or measures put in place to meet regulations to state oversight from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection and/or the State Fire Marshal may be submitted to meet the requirements of this section;

P. Revegetation Plan. Applicant must provide a revegetation plan for restoring areas temporarily disturbed during construction;

Q. Closure, Removal, and Post-Closure. If a post-closure plan has been required by any state or federal entity a copy of said plan shall be provided to the county. If no state or federal entity has required a post-closure plan, the applicant will enter into an agreement with Humboldt County to develop and submit said plan for fundamental commitments to site restoration. The applicant is required to return the subject property to the condition existing prior to construction and establishment of the renewable energy generation project. In order to meet this goal the post-closure plan shall include:

1. Removal of aboveground and underground equipment structures and foundations to a depth of at least three feet below grade;

2. Restoration of the surface grade and soil and revegetation of restored soil areas with native seed mixes;

3. A schedule for completion of restoration work;

4. A detailed cost estimate for site restoration in current-year dollars, including an explanation of the basis for the cost estimate and assumptions;

R. Bond for Assurance of Post-Closure Remediation. Unless required by a state or federal entity, the county may require the applicant to submit a bond or letter of credit in a form and amount satisfactory to Humboldt County, assuring the availability of adequate funds to restore the site to a useful, nonhazardous condition, if the operator fails or is otherwise unable to restore the site as required by the permit:

1. The amount of the bond or letter of credit shall be adjusted for inflation using the U.S. Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflator;

2. The applicant shall increase the amount of the bond or letter of credit annually by the percentage increase in the index and shall prorate the amount within the year to the date of retirement. If at any time the index is no longer published, Humboldt County shall select a comparable index for adjusting the amount;

3. The certificate holder shall describe the status of the bond or letter of credit in an annual report submitted to Humboldt County;

4. The bond or letter of credit shall not be subject to revocation or reduction before retirement of the energy project site;

S. Bond for Assurance of Remediation of Impacts to County Roads. The county may require a separate bond to support necessary maintenance and repair on county roads if not completed by the applicant. (Ord. 11-15-16D § 1)

17.70.030 Expedited renewable energy generation project permit process—Purpose and definition.

Any renewable energy generation project that is required to apply for renewable energy generation project conditional use permit (as defined in Chapter 17.68 HCC) may apply instead for an expedited renewable energy generation project if Humboldt County determines that each of the following conditions apply:

A. The project is proposed to be fully or partially built on public land that is in an isolated or rural area in Humboldt County. “Isolated or rural” is defined as being more than twenty miles from Interstate 80 and Highway 95;

B. The project is proposed to be built in a location where there will be minimal risk of disturbance to residents;

C. All project impacts on Humboldt County services, including but not limited to: roads, law enforcement, fire, and emergency response are addressed to the county’s satisfaction;

D. The applicant is required by a federal land management agency to complete an environmental review process that includes an environmental impact statement (EIS) or environmental assessment (EA);

E. The county is engaged in the federal environmental review process as a cooperating agency, is made aware of the project at the beginning of the federal review and permit application process, and through this process can ensure that the health, safety and welfare of Humboldt County residents are adequately protected. (Ord. 11-15-16D § 1)

17.70.040 Application process.

Prior to submitting the application for the permits, and at the beginning of the federal review and permit application process, the applicant must have a presubmission meeting with Humboldt County regional planning department staff to discuss the project and the application. If all of the above conditions are met, the applicant shall submit as part of the application the appropriate documents related to the environmental review by state and federal land management agencies. Following the submission of the application, staff will grant an administrative approval or denial of the permit within sixty-five calendar days. If granted an approval, final issuance of the permit will be contingent on approval of any pending federal land use permits, as well as the review of any documents associated with the EIS or EA. (Ord. 11-15-16D § 1)

17.70.050 Application fee.

An application-processing fee, as established by the Humboldt County board of commissioners, shall be collected for any application for an expedited renewable energy generation project permit. In addition, the applicant may be required to pay the cost for a contractor to represent the county as a cooperating agency in the federal land environmental review process if the county does not otherwise have the capacity or staff to review and participate. (Ord. 11-15-16D § 1)

17.70.060 Conditional use permit maintenance.

Construction on the project shall commence within two years of approval. If the applicant is not able to initiate construction within that period, a two-year time extension from the date of the original approval of the conditional use permit may be granted by the regional planning commission following a progress report presented at an open meeting of the commission. If the applicant has not commenced construction solely due to length or contingency on federal or state permitting process, the commission shall grant approval of a two-year time extension following presentation of the progress report. In the event that the use authorized by the conditional use permit is abandoned for a period of more than two years from the date of last producing operations, the permit shall become null and void and a new conditional use permit shall be required. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this code, the term “abandonment,” as applied to renewable energy generation project facilities, shall not be construed as applying to a facility with regular on-site employees, maintenance, and security, regardless of whether commercial production at the facility has temporarily lapsed. In the event of a force majeure event, such as, but not limited to, a flood, damage, or destruction of the access to the site, earthquake, or other events beyond the control of the county or permit holder, the period of abandonment shall not be deemed to commence until such a time as the permit holder may be found to once again have reasonable access to the site. In this case, the permit holder shall reasonably attempt to establish access to the site. The conditional use permit shall remain valid as long as the permit holder, its heirs, assigns, or successors remain in compliance with the terms of this permit and county, state and federal regulations. In the event that the permit lapses or the use is discontinued or abandoned, the permit holder/owner, its heirs, assigns or successors shall remain responsible for environmental compliance until post closure reclamation requirements are met. If the facility is not being abandoned, but is not in operation for greater than two years for a reason such as equipment failure, replacement, or maintenance, the project contractor shall notify Humboldt County in writing indicating an estimated timeline for operations to recommence. (Ord. 11-15-16D § 1)