The state energy council will conduct a public hearing Jan. 30 on the 90-turbine Desert Claim Wind Power Project proposed north of Ellensburg and likely will face much more controversy on the decision it faces after the hearing.
The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has set a public hearing for 7 p.m. in the Home Arts Building at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds. The hearing is limited to determining if the project is consistent with county land-use rules.
After the hearing, the wind power company, French-owned EnXco Inc., wants the EFSEC to agree to not require it to go through the county’s wind farm review process, an EFSEC requirement to make the project consistent with county land-use rules.
David Steeb, Desert Claim project director, said EnXco wants the state council to pre-empt the county’s involvement in the EFSEC process and make its own decision on whether the project is consistent with county land-use rules.
Steeb said the company doesn’t want to go through another round of public hearings before the county Planning Commission and county commissioners as part of the EFSEC process.
“We don’t see the project going through the county process again,” said Steeb. “We went through that process, and they turned us down. We don’t see repeating it.”
Kittitas County officials say the revised project is dramatically different from an earlier, 120-turbine proposal and, in essence, is a new project that must come to the county for hearings as part of a review by EFSEC.
“We believe this new project is significantly altered and legally should come before the county,” said county Commissioner Chairman Alan Crankovich.
Wind farm developers can gain approval two ways: directly from the county or through the state’s EFSEC process. If a company files with EFSEC, part of the state process requires the firm to work with the county to make its project consistent with county land-use rules, namely zoning and the county growth plan, and then come back to EFSEC.
EnXco initially sought approval from Kittitas County government for 120 turbines, but that plan was rejected by the county in April 2005, and the denial was later upheld in a local court appeal by the firm. The county contended the project was incompatible with surrounding land uses and its zoning and comprehensive plan.
EnXco on Nov. 6 filed its revised application with the state council in hopes of a more favorable outcome. It involves 90 turbines on less acreage eight miles north of Ellensburg.
Allen Fiksdal, EFSEC manager, said previous wind farm projects have been declared inconsistent, and companies were ordered to work out inconsistencies with the county.
He said he couldn’t speak for the seven-member council on what it would do with a request from EnXco to bypass the county process.
Want to comment?
“¢ Go to: www.efsec.wa. gov
“¢ Comments on whether the Desert Claim Wind Power Project is consistent with Kittitas County land-use rules must be e-mailed no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 30 to: email@example.com, or mailed to Allen Fiksdal, EFSEC, P.O. Box 43172, Olympia, WA 98504-3172.
By Mike Johnston
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