Zoning/Planning and Oregon
In the decision to change wind siting rules Tuesday, the Umatilla County Commissioners did something new and unique: They quartered off an area with tougher restrictions, essentially keeping wind turbines out of the Walla Walla River watershed.
"We were trying to set standards that would be a protection for the environment but also the citizens. Umatilla County is unique in our landscape, we have a number of critical streams in our mountains and some very erodible soils in some area and we don't want to create issues that could damage those."
On Tuesday, the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners will hold another meeting analyzing possible changes to the rules allowing wind farms in the county.
The board has spent three previous meetings pouring over the changes proposed by the planning commission.
People living near the proposed project who came to the meeting agreed. They said they were glad to see the council deliberating their concerns, but after a daylong meeting, they saw the need for changing the laws.
"The public comment that's been put on the table in this is eye-opening," said Beyeler.
"New regulatory developments affecting the entire wind energy industry made it unlikely that we will be able to complete a transaction on the timeline both PGE and RES Americas had expected, so our request for a waiver is no longer necessary."
Union County citizens will have a chance to express their opinion of a $600 million wind farm planned near Union.
The board of commissioners voted Wednesday to place a nonbinding advisory issue on the November ballot.
Coos Bay officials are predicting that wind turbines soon could join TV satellite dishes on residential rooftops. They see the potential benefits, but also possible pitfalls. They also don't have protocols to regulate the technology.
So the city imposed a three-month moratorium on installations this week to give staffers time to write an ordinance.
Richard Jolly, the man who filed the Goal 5 amendment aimed to disallow windmills in a 200,000 acre area of the Blue Mountains, may re-file his amendment.
Jolly said he wanted to rewrite it to include more than just the viewshed, which was the basis of his Goal 5 amendment addressed by the Umatilla County Planning Commission at its last two meetings. The proposal has flared up opinions on both sides - those who want to preserve the beauty of the Blues without wind farms, and those who want a chance to get their share of the wind energy gold rush.
A proposal to disallow wind turbines in the Blue Mountain foothills continues Thursday night before the Umatilla County Planning Commission in the Pendleton Convention Center.
Milton-Freewater-area resident Richard Jolly first made his proposal to the nine-member commission at a June 25 meeting, asking for a Goal 5 amendment to set aside a section of land east of Highway 11 as a viewshed to be protected for its aesthetic, natural resource and wildlife values.
Along the northern border of Umatilla County, at about the center of the county, the state drew a 400,000 acre box and called it an energy generation area. It includes Milton-Freewater, some of Pendleton, Adams, Athena and Weston.
This week the Umatilla County Commissioners decided they want to ask the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council to get rid of it. ..."It creates a disadvantage in the marketplace when the state leads instead of the county," Mabbott said.
A proposal to keep wind turbines out of the Blue Mountains and foothills will go before the Umatilla County Planning Commission Thursday.
Richard Jolly of Milton-Freewater submitted a Goal 5 amendment to the county's comprehensive plan, which aims to set aside an area as a wind turbine-free zone. ...It seeks to designate the area as a viewshed, or a visual resource, which needs to be protected by the county.
Rows of tall turbines have already remade the landscape on wheat farms and ridgelines on private land around the region. But so far there have been no wind farms built on public land in the Northwest.
That's about to change.
In 2006 the BLM received six right-of-way applications for wind testing in Oregon and Washington. The number last year was four times that -- 24.
Wind farms in relatively untrammeled public lands present a number of potential problems while pitting two environmental concerns ...against each other.
A controversial proposal to site wind turbines on Sevenmile Hill near The Dalles has been cancelled.
A letter from Massachusetts-based applicant First Wind dated Jan. 20 formally withdrew the company's application. ..."We're dancing in the street," said attorney Mark Womble, a Sevenmile resident who was part of fierce opposition to the plan. "We're excited. We're very happy."
The chapter on commercial wind power has also "risen to the top," he said, especially after Idaho Power's proposal to run a 500-megawatt transmission line through Baker County.
Some residents believe that wind farms are the almost inevitable result of such a large capacity transmission line.
Companies or individuals considering a wind power project in Baker County deserve to know the process that's in place for approving or denying their project, Bennett said.
The overall goal of the new ordinance is to "have a tool that assists individuals, the (planning) department and (planning) commissioners to make decisions clearly and simply," Bennett said.
The city council doesn't want to see windmills surrounding Milton-Freewater.
Thursday morning, about six hours before a Umatilla County Planning Commission meeting to discuss windmills, the city council unanimously approved a resolution and letter to the commission declaring its "serious concern" with windmills going up in the viewshed along the Blue Mountains.
It asked the planning commission to come up with rules for where it places wind farms and power lines within the viewshed.
Steens Mountain stretches through the open lands of southeastern Oregon's Harney County for more than 30 miles, a twisting spine of rock and brush punctuated by steep gorges and rushing streams.
Remote and rugged, it has come to symbolize the state's wild, austere side.
It's also becoming a battleground for a wind power developer that sees gold in the Steens' stiff breezes -- and red in the eyes of environmentalists.
At issue are about 200 wind turbines that Columbia Energy Partners wants to build along the northern boundary of the Steens Mountain Wilderness. ...The conflicts come into sharp relief in a state that prizes its green credentials and its pristine lands.
Chris Crowley, head of Columbia Energy Partners, filed separate applications for the three wind projects he called the Echanis, East Ridge and West Ridge wind farms. They lie next to each other ...Each would generate a maximum of 104 megawatts.
Any project with a capacity of 105 megawatts or more triggers review by the state. The county reviews smaller ones.
"These are blatant attempts to circumvent the public process," said Dave Becker, an attorney with the Oregon Natural Desert Association. The state's Energy Facility Siting Council should review the projects, he said.
Baker City Manager Steve Brocato doesn't want Baker City to "start looking like Boardman."
He's afraid a proposed Idaho Power transmission line that will pass through Baker County - and perhaps skirt the east side of Baker City - might do just that.
Brocato told city councilors Tuesday the proposed power line "will detract from the beauty of this area" and believes its presence will spawn more wind farms, which he said are "detrimental to the beauty of the community and don't contribute to economic development." ..."If the county grants a wind farm, it should be somewhere where we can't see them and I would like the caveat that it has to be built by a local industry."
The Umatilla County Planning Commission has approved the Echo-area project. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a land-use permit for the wind farm's transmission line along Highway 207. The line will carry the project's electricity to a PacifiCorp substation at Hinkle.
For the project's investors, the land-use permit was the final step before going to work. ...
The Umatilla County Planning Commission gave the green light to an Oregon wind farm project in Echo Thursday night.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a land-use permit for the wind farm's transmission line along Highway 207. The line will carry the project's electricity to a PacifiCorp substation at Hinkle. ...Commissioner Tammie Williams said she sympathized with those who live near the line, but Umatilla County needed the money the wind farm would bring.
"It would be a disadvantage to this community not to have that money generated," she said.