What EnXco Inc. in 2005 said it would do after Kittitas County rejected its wind farm north of Ellensburg it did Monday: the wind power development company filed a downsized wind farm proposal with the state in hopes to get better treatment and possible approval.
David Steeb, project manager for the Desert Claim Wind Power Project, said the French-owned company filed an application Monday at noon with the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC.
He said EnXco Inc. also is asking EFSEC to pre-empt the county commissioner’s decision, or lay it aside and make its own decision whether the project is compatible with the county’s zoning rules and current land-use in the project area.
Steeb said changes have been made to the project to make it more compatible since its original application was denied by Kittitas County commissioners in April 2005. “We listened and responded to the feedback from Kittitas County officials and residents,” Steeb said in a prepared statement. “We want to build a good project and be a good neighbor.”
The application calls for a 90-turbine project, down from 120, located on 4,783 acres eight miles northwest of Ellensburg, which is 454 acres less. Newer turbines, though fewer, will allow the same amount of power to be generated, he said.
Another change, which includes leasing state Department of Natural Resource lands, links the project in one contiguous piece of land, whereas before it had separate parcels.
There are two ways to gain approval of wind farms: through the local county government process or through the state’s EFSEC process.
Steeb said the closest residences not participating in the proposed project are more than 1,500 feet away from a turbine. Seven other residences are farther, but within 3,000 feet of a proposed turbine.
He said these changes mean the sound of a turbine received at property lines of the residences will meet allowable sound levels for night time in a residential area.
Steeb also said some turbines will be automatically turned off that have the potential to create the shadow-flicker effect on a few residences, thus eliminating shadow flicker.
No local decision?
Steeb said EnXco is seeking pre-emption because the county’s process doesn’t provide clarity as to what standards the wind farm must meet and what the definition is for the land-use area where the wind farm is proposed.
Kittitas County Commission Chairman David Bowen said it appears the project, with its changes, is a new one and should come back before the county’s review process.
“We believe that siting a wind power project must be a local government decision,” Bowen said. “It is appropriate to first go to the local government, and they chose not to do that.”
Bowen said EnXco is on doubtful legal ground to seek pre-emption on the modified project.
He said it could be determined by EFSEC that the county must first reject the revised, smaller project before the firm can even ask for pre-emption.
Commissioners rejected the first project as incompatible with the surrounding land uses and residents.
Desmond Knudson, a wind farm supporter and local businessman, said he continues to support the Desert Claim project because it will create new jobs and not hurt the environment or property values, and supply a growing need for regional and local power.
“I hope residents of the county see it as a good thing,” Knudson said of the filing on Monday. “If approved, the project will increase the county’s property valuation base and increase tax revenue to local governments.”
Ed Garrett, a spokesman for Residents Opposed to Kittitas Turbines, said the group continues to oppose the site of the project. He said he was surprised EnXco filed with EFSEC when EFSEC has not yet made a decision yet on another wind farm, located farther northwest from Desert Claim.
The two projects share the same problems, he said.
“Desert Claim is still in the wrong place even if it’s smaller; it’s in an area where there is rural residential development that’s in conflict with an industrial power project,” Garrett said.
By Mike Johnston
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