Three state lawmakers representing Kittitas County in Olympia are calling on Gov. Chris Gregoire to meet with county residents on both sides of the wind farm issue before she makes a final a decision on the 65-turbine Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project.
State Representatives Judy Warnick and Bill Hinkle and state Sen. JanÃ©a Holmquist, in an April 5 letter to the governor, said they have been contacted by “many of our constituents who are deeply concerned their opinions are not being heard,” and wrote they are “uncertain whether appropriate deference was given to Kittitas County” and its review of the project that ended in rejection.
“Before you make this decision, our constituents would like a formal fact-finding meeting with you to ensure you have all of the information before you,” the letter said.
The request recognized that public notice is required to let everyone know about the meeting, and that all parties involved with the local wind farm issue should have an opportunity to participate in the special meeting. The lawmakers said they were not making a decision for or against the wind farm in requesting the meeting.
The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council on March 27 voted 6-1 to recommend the governor approve the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, a wind farm proposed by Huston-based Horizon Wind Energy at a site 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg on ridges on both sides of U.S. Highway 97. In May, Kittitas County commissioners voted to deny the project. The state council, for the first time in its history, voted to pre-empt or override a local county government decision to approve a power-generating project.
The majority of EFSEC members said their review of the project and hearings led them to conclude the project was consistent with the county’s zoning rules. The six members agreed to pre-empt the county’s decision because they said the county’s wind farm ordinance duplicates the EFSEC review that has priority over local government review. Such duplication, EFSEC members agreed, “usurps this council’s statutory authority.”
Lars Erickson, a spokesman for the governor, said late Monday Gregoire is aware of the request but is waiting to receive the recommendation from EFSEC. When the recommendation is received, Erickson said the governor will give the recommendation a full, thorough review.
Kittitas County commissioners last week filed a petition with EFSEC asking the council to reconsider its March 27 decision on the Kittitas Valley wind farm and to deny Horizon’s request for pre-emption of the county decision. Commissioners, through their legal counsel, said the EFSEC decision ignores state Growth Management Act planning goals and the wind farm applicant failed to make a good faith effort to resolve non-compliance with county zoning and planning rules.
EFSEC members were scheduled to meet today to review the petition for reconsideration and decide if it re-examination is warranted. If the council finds it is not warranted, the recommendation will go to Gregoire, who has 60 days to make a final decision. She can approve it, reject it or send it back to EFSEC to restudy aspects of the decision, possibly requiring additional public input.
Holmquist, Hinkle and Warnick, in their letter, said constituents have told them they are concerned that not enough information would come to the governor to fully inform her of the potential negative impacts approval would create.
By Mike Johnston
10 April 2007
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