County wind farm gets a West Side airing
By Paul Balcerak
SEATTLE – Voices from both sides of the Cascade mountains were heard Tuesday night at South Seattle Community College on a controversial wind farm proposal to the east in Kittitas County – the 65-turbine Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project.
The hearing was the first in a series of sessions by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, that will continue next week, beginning Monday in Ellensburg.
The state council is examining the project proposed by Horizon Wind Energy, a Houston-based firm, and located on ridge tops along U.S. Highway 97 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg. EFSEC is charged with making a recommendation on the wind farm to Gov. Chris Gregoire who makes the final decision whether to approve the project.
Of the nearly 60 in attendance, about 40 members of the public, as well as advocacy group representatives, presented arguments for and against the wind farm that had been previously rejected in June by Kittitas County officials.
While those in attendance were largely comprised of West Side alternative power proponents, there were a handful of Kittitas County property owners who traveled to Seattle to speak out against the project.
Tuesday’s hearing was held at the request of the nonprofit Renewable Northwest Project, a Portland advocacy group with intervenor status before EFSEC.
Horizon Wind Energy has asked EFSEC to make its own ruling on the project, independent of Kittitas County’s decision.
“Maybe some people don’t care if they have (wind turbines) in their backyard, but we do,” Cle Elum resident Jeff Howard said.
Howard reflected a popular sentiment among anti-project land owners, many of whom said they weren’t against wind power so long as it was kept out of view of their property.
“I’m not against wind power, it’s just the wrong place,” said Rick Foresper, a Redmond resident with land in Ellensburg.
But about 30 of the speakers on hand expressed a pro-wind farm stance, appealing mostly to the need for alternatives to fossil fuels.
“Wind power is currently our most viable alternative to burning fossil fuels,” said Dan Evans with the Sustainable Fisheries Foundation.
Other speakers agreed and suggested that good locations for wind farms were too scarce to pass up.
“I’m here today to say change happens,” said Seattle resident Helen Gribble. “If progress is going to be made, I’d rather have it be made for a wind farm than for (traditional fossil fuel sources).”
EFSEC Chairman Jim Luce said public comment sessions, like Tuesday’s, are taken into consideration by the council in forming a recommendation to the governor.
A county ruling such as Kittitas’ has never been overruled by EFSEC and Luce said the council would abide by protocols in the Washington Administrative Code in rendering a decision.
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