A 500-square-mile zone on Kittitas County’s east end was approved by county commissioners on Wednesday as an area pre-identified as compatible for wind farm development.
The zone stretches along the Columbia River and the county’s southeast border. Final approval of the new zone is expected to come 3 p.m. July 19 when final documents are signed.
Commissioner Chairman Alan Crankovich on Thursday said commissioners approved the addition of wording to the zone that would indicate that wind farm developers also must gain approval for their projects from private, state and federal landowners in the area. This includes the U.S. Defense Department that owns Yakima Training Center lands administered by the U.S. Army and Fort Lewis.
“I’m not as optimistic as my fellow commissioners are on the availability of state, federal and military lands for wind farms,” Crankovich said.
He said he doesn’t want creation of the zone to give wind farm companies “false hope” that they can easily site a project in the zone.
Wind-energy development firms, seeking wind farms in the new zone, would have fewer land-use requirements to meet, although they would have to do environmental studies and gain a permit after hearings before county commissioners.
Not approved by commissioners was a 30-mile long, 12-mile wide and 360-square-mile expansion of the zone that follows the east-west high-voltage powerline corridor across the county.
Advocates for the addition of the expanded area, Desmond Knudson and others, have told commissioners the expanded area takes in windy areas and is close to power lines, which is crucial for wind farm development. Knudson also has said that state law is clear that the county can’t create the wind farm zone on training center lands without the permission of the Fort Lewis commander.
Knudson, after the Wednesday meeting said he was disappointed the expansion area was not approved but is angered that commissioners want to create the east-end zone in disregard of state law that prohibits it on military lands.
He said if the zone is formally adopted next week he will seek a recall of the three county commissioners.
Crankovich said commissioners turned down the expansion request saying it would be “inappropriate at this time” because two wind farm projects, which have previously been rejected by the county, are within the expansion area and are under state review. He also indicated the two projects also may be the subject of litigation.
Commissioner Mark McClain on Thursday said he wants to revisit the possibility of expanding the zone through a future public review process. Crankovich said he also would be willing to discuss later the merits of adding the corridor area.
By Mike Johnston
13 July 2007
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