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County judge denies wind farm appeal; Enxco will go to state for project approval  

Kittitas County Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper on Friday ruled that county commissioners acted legally and within their authority to deny approval of the Desert Claim Wind Power Project earlier this year.

Kittitas County Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper on Friday ruled that county commissioners acted legally and within their authority to deny approval of the Desert Claim Wind Power Project earlier this year.

County commissioners on April 5 denied permits requested by EnXco USA Inc. for the French-based company’s planned 120-turbine wind farm eight miles north of Ellensburg. The company later filed an appeal in county Superior Court. A hearing on the appeal took place Oct. 6.

EnXco officials this morning said they were disappointed in the judge’s ruling. They said they intend to seek approval of the project from the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council now that the project has been denied at the county-government level.

Part of the EFSEC process requires that the energy developer make proposed projects compatible with local governments where they are located.

“Desert Claim provides some very important benefits regionally and locally, but received very little consideration in the court compared to the localized issues,” said David Steeb, one of the project directors. “We believe it is important to balance these localized issues with the regional and local benefits and with the mitigation measures that were proposed.”

Steeb said the project proposed ways to lessen the turbines’ visual and noise impact to the surrounding land, and these meet or exceed the protective measures approved for the Wild Horse Wind Power Project now under construction east of Ellensburg.

Judge Cooper’s 11-page ruling stated commissioners had good reason to deny the project because it conflicted with neighboring properties and how hose lands are being used.

“There is ample evidence in the record to support the finding that the project does not bear a substantial relationship to the public health, safety or welfare and is incompatible with uses in the area.”

Cooper wrote that Desert Claim “made extraordinary efforts” to modify its proposal to satisfy concerns by the county Planning Commission and the county commissioners, but “the bottom line is that Desert Claim did not convince the Board of County Commissioners with the evidence presented …”

County Chief Civil Prosecutor Jim Hurson said the judge clearly upheld the county’s contention that commissioners decision-making process was correct, and that they had the authority to make the decision they finally rendered.

“There were significant adverse impacts that the environmental impact statement revealed could not be mitigated,” Hurson said. “One of these was the high, visual impact of the proposed turbines.”

Members of Residents Opposed to Kittitas Turbines were party to the appeal and supported the county’s position. Ed Garrett, a spokesman for the citizen advocacy group, said it was pleased with the decision.

“Having struck out three times, EnXco should now go home,” Garrett said.

He said EnXco will now try to override the local government decision by going to the state energy siting agency.

“It is incredible that this arrogant company is now going to try to find another way to force its wind farm on the county,” Garrett said. “Wind farm developers have proven themselves to be the kind of unethical developers that this county does not need.”

EnXco’s lawsuit claimed county commissioners couldn’t use as part of their decision a finding that the company hasn’t adequately lessened impacts from the project. The lawsuit states that the environmental impact statement outlines mitigation measures to lessen the impacts of the turbines, and that the statement was never challenged.

The lawsuit states that the presence of a significant impact that can’t be entirely mitigated is not legally sufficient to support the commissioners’ decision.

The proposed Desert Claim project, spread on 5,237 acres, stretches from north of Smithson Road to the lower slopes of Table Mountain, and between Reecer Creek and Wilson Creek roads.

http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2005/11/08/news/news02.txt

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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