A state agency begins today in Olympia to come up with a decision on the controversial Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, a wind farm proposed for 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg.
The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, is set to meet today and Wednesday in efforts to form a recommendation to Gov. Chris Gregoire on the 65-turbine project, according to Irina Makarow, EFSEC’s siting manager.
The governor, after receiving the recommendation, has 60 days to make a final decision: approve the recommendation, deny it or send the issue back to EFSEC for reconsideration.
Makarow said the seven-member EFSEC panel also will meet Wednesday and Dec. 11 and 12. The deliberation sessions are not open to the public, according to state law.
“Given the amount of testimony on the project, the volumes of documentation and the issues involved, it would appear the council will need all the time it can to put together its recommendation,” Makarow said.
Sponsors of the project, Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy, contend the project on both sides of U.S. Highway 97 is environmentally compatible with the surrounding area.
The wind-power development firm also wants EFSEC to pre-empt or lay aside a decision made June 6 by Kittitas County officials to reject the project. Horizon wants EFSEC to determine on its own that the project complies with Kittitas County’s land-use rules and plans.
County officials contend Horizon failed to make a good-faith effort to work with the county to solve land-use issues and impacts associated with the project. They also believe that the county’s decision is under the umbrella of the state’s Growth Management Act, and the act doesn’t allow state government to undo local government decisions that are lawful.
Makarow said EFSEC will likely meet in a special, public session in early January 2007 in Ellensburg to formally vote on its recommendation. That will be the first time the recommendation is made public, she said.
Majority and minority decisions can be issued by the state council in its recommendation.
Parties legally tied to the EFSEC process will be notified of the recommendation after the meeting and have a deadline before which to ask EFSEC to formally reconsider its recommendation.
If a call for reconsideration is accepted by EFSEC, it will later rule on the issues brought up for reconsideration. If no reconsideration is called for, the recommendation goes to the governor.
By Mike Johnston
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