Library from Washington
Five people are facing manslaughter charges for the death of a Chehalis man who died in January 2020 when a trench that had not been reinforced collapsed during construction of the Skookumchuck Wind Farm along the border of Lewis and Thurston counties. The charges were filed in Lewis County Superior Court on Aug. 9 — 20 months after the death of 24-year-old Jonathan F. Stringer, who left behind a young daughter and a fiancée.
In addition, the ridgeline of the Horse Heaven Hills is an important foraging area for raptors, it said. The Horse Heaven ridgeline is among the last remaining functional and uninterrupted shrub-steppe and natural grasslands in Benton County, it said. "Maintaining sufficient foraging area to support successful territories and nesting for ferruginous hawks and other raptors that use thermals and air currents associated with the Horse Heaven Hills seems particularly challenging with current proposed structure orientation," Washington state Fish and Wildlife said in its comments.
But residents who love rural Washington’s bright open spaces deserve better than a “get used to it” scolding as their landscape changes. The transitions to channel sunshine and canyon winds into the power grid must be managed with sensitivity. The shift to cleaner energy is too essential to lose progress to a deepening cultural clash.
Opponents have gained the most traction in rural neighborhoods, like the one west of Goldendale near the Hansons’ property, where some large farms have been subdivided into smaller tracts of land, attracting an influx of retirees and others who don’t want to see nearby landscapes transformed by solar panels. Fierce debates over solar siting also have erupted in other areas of the country, stretching from Virginia to Indiana to California.
The results show overwhelming opposition to the project, with 78 percent of respondents expressing that the Horse Heaven Wind Project is not worth the personal, environmental, and economic impacts on the community (view results below), Survey data also reveals community concerns regarding the level of impact that specific Horse Heaven Wind Project outcomes (such as viewshed, turbine disposal, wildlife, etc.) will have on the region.
The group calls offshore wind development “a threat to the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and our way of life in Maine.” It asks the Governor's Energy Office to complete an offshore wind “road map” before bringing large-scale projects to the Gulf of Maine. A demonstration project with one turbine is scheduled to be installed off Monhegan Island and a larger project of up to 12 turbines is in the pipeline off Maine southern coast. A general oval-shaped location has been determined and the state is in the process of identifying a specific site.
BENTON COUNTY, WA – Scout Clean Energy (“Scout”), withdrew a request for expedited processing of the Horse Heaven Wind Farm application for site certification through Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC).
The claim stems from a Jan. 9 incident in which 24-year-old Stringer attempted to dig out a coworker following a trench collapse at the Skookumchuck Wind Farm along the Lewis and Thurston county border. A second collapse buried and killed Stringer after he jumped in the trench attempting to save his coworker.
The potential wind farm, south of Tri-Cities, has brought up opposition from a group in the area, Save Our Ridges. “It’s not wanted and it’s not needed,” Barry Bush with Save Our Ridges said.
Opponents of the wind farm have started an online petition. They also have started a GoFundMe fundraiser called “Save Our Horse Heaven Hills” that has raised more than $5,000. “We are in danger of losing the natural beauty of this unique geological feature with majestic ridges, rolling hills, and steep slopes contoured by ice age floods,” says the fundraiser organized by Barry Bush, a Benton PUD commissioner, to raise public awareness.
There is a growing opposition to this project in the region, just for these reasons. Interestingly, Scout Clean Energy has applied for Site Certification by going straight to the State authorities, circumventing the county government, knowing that the locals do not want this project and hoping that the state’s goal of 100% non-fossil fuel by 2045 will push this through against them. The real problem is that Scout Clean Energy is building this wind farm in the wrong state.
A company out of Boulder, Colorado named Scout Clean Energy has applied for a permit to build a massive turbine wind farm in Washington State on the Horse Heaven Hills, extending from the town of Benton City, through the Tri-Cities, to the town of Finley. The wind farm will have upwards of 250 turbines that are 500 feet tall and cover about 6,500 acres (over 10 square miles).
But in a recently released report, “Wind Power and Clean Energy Policy Perspectives,” the utility’s commissioners say they “do not support further wind power development in the Northwest.” ...“While development of wind farms may be politically fashionable and appeal to many in the general public as a harmonization of nature with electricity production, the science and economics indicate powering modern civilization with intermittent generation resources like wind and solar power comes at a high financial and environmental cost.”
In the months since Stringer’s death, neither RES-Americas, the head construction company tasked with contracting out the job, nor Southern Power, which owns a majority stake in the company, have commented on the incident. There’s also been no comment from either company on the state’s investigation. The 38-turbine Skookumchuck Wind Project, originally set to begin operating in December 2019, has undergone multiple setbacks and has yet to be substantially completed.
Work on the site came to a halt earlier this year when 24-year-old worker Jonathan F. Stringer, of Chehalis, was killed in a trench collapse. RES-Americas is still the primary contractor currently leading the project, White said. The company and two others are currently under investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
Late last year I had a discussion with one of these so-called environmentalists at an industry meeting in Portland. She explained to me that they always will be able to build turbines in Eastern Washington because the counties get paid handsomely via taxes and the farmers that own the land get millions of dollars per year via federal subsidies. I explained to her that we are tired of being paid off so they can destroy our environment. I told her that I find it ironic that the federal government can tax us and then give the money to vulture capitalists so they can use the money to destroy our local community.
The company then would need to find buyers for the electricity that would be produced. It could have buyers in place in time to start construction of wind turbines in October. The company also will be working with the Kennewick Irrigation District, to get an easement to the Bonneville Power Administration’s Red Mountain substation.
The Olympian reported this week that the state Department of Labor and Industries is investigating the incident. L&I already has three open investigations with three businesses that have ties to the project: Aerotek Inc., RES America Construction Inc. and Southern Power. A fourth investigation also could be opened with an RES America subsidiary, said L&I spokesman Frank Ameduri.
The man was buried during cabling work for the Skookumchuck project near Olympia, southwest of Seattle, said local police. A second worker was rescued and taken to hospital after the incident on 9 January.
According to the sheriff's office, two employees were working at the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project when a trench collapsed on top of them. Crews rescued one person who was partially buried. The other person was completely covered and died.