Neighbors weren’t shy Wednesday night about their feelings on the proposed Cascade Wind Project on Sevenmile Hill; they don’t want it and they want to know how to keep it out.
Close to 100 people crowded into the Fireside Room at The Dalles Civic Auditorium, where fewer than half that number had been expected.
The dominant, and vocal, viewpoint expressed was opposition.
“What is the value of our feelings?” asked one unidentified speaker.
Others talked about the aesthetics of living next to a wind farm, as well as the impact on health from turbine noise and strobed lighting effects, night lighting, effects on agriculture, wildlife, traffic and even military flight patterns as they shared their concerns about the 40-tower, 60-megawatt wind farm proposed by UPC.
But the main purpose of the meeting was to let interested parties know how best to play a role in the process.
“This is the very, very beginning of the process,” said Adam Bless of the energy department. “This is the first meeting, not the last.”
Bless explained that applicants for wind farms larger than 25 megawatts have the option of choosing county or state site certification processes. The state process, which UPC chose, is decided by the Energy Facility Siting Council, an appointed board.
The county does play a role, however. Its land use laws are enforced through the process, along with rules from a range of other agencies, Bless noted. And the Wasco County Court has been appointed as an advisory group in the process.
Bless and facilitator Marti Kantola of Six Rivers Community Mediation Services attempted to keep the meeting congenial, but shouting and other forms of tension erupted several times as audience members questioned whether their words would be heard and considered in the application.
“Has the council ever turned down one of these applications?” asked one audience member.
“We’ve never had an application get to that point,” Bless said, noting that most applications likely to be turned down withdraw earlier in the process.
The process includes two more primary opportunities for comment. The first is under way now as part of the preapplication process and gives the public an opportunity to comment on the completeness of the application.
The 1,000-page application is on file at the Wasco County planning office and The Dalles-Wasco County Public Library. It is also available for download online at www.cascadewind.com.
The deadline for commenting on application completeness is May 25.
From that process, Bless said a list of items needed for completion will be created for the applicant.
Once the application is deemed complete, the Department of Energy will file a “notice of application” filed and ask for public comment.
“This is the more formal part of the process,” Bless noted.
After the application and comment process, Energy will issue a draft proposed order, similar to a staff report in county land use planning. It will recommend to the Energy Facility Siting Council whether or not to grant a site certificate.
Following the draft order, comes a key public hearing, Bless noted, where opponents to the project must either raise their issues or waive rights to appeal later in the process.
“If you haven’t raised an issue by then, it can’t be raised in the future,” Bless said.
It is likely several hearing opportunities will be scheduled locally, he noted, so the public has ample opportunity to be heard. Those who can’t attend the meetings may submit their comments in writing to the Department of Energy.
The council will make its decision on a discrete set of standards and whether the application passes or fails those standards, Bless said.
“It’s supposed to be very objective and very evidence-based,” he said.
Audience members closely questioned a variety of the process aspects, trying to make sure they would not be excluded from the process by any mistakes.
The meeting also acted as an opportunity for opponents of the wind project to network.
“This process will exhaust you,” said neighbor Scott Hege. “If you come and get frustrated and don’t come back, we won’t have what we need to have impact here.”
Hege urged audience members to talk to their friends and neighbors, and to lobby their county commissioners on the project.
“The stakes are high,” Hege said. “We can’t quit and we can’t let this happen.”
By Kathy Gray
of The Chronicle
3 May 2007
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