Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht denied a petition Friday for review of a Columbia County conditional use permit for construction and operation of a 90 megawatt wind farm project.
Petitioners Eric and Elizabeth Thorn, Gary and Joann Grendahl and James Peterson filed the petition in the Walla Walla court May 23.
Respondents were Columbia County, Blue Sky Wind, LLC, Broughton Land Company and Jack and Nancy Swearengen, trustees of Swearengen Family Trust.
For several months, the petitioners have published advertisements in Columbia County news publications, listing reasons why the wind project should not be allowed to go forward.
Each side was given 30 minutes to provide testimony to Schacht.
James C. Carmody of the Yakima law firm Velikanje, Moore, & Shore, P.S., represented the petitioners.
Carmody told the judge the combination of the proposed project, called the Dayton Wind Project, with two previous projects gives Columbia County the largest wind farm project in the United States.
When the 50 towers on the Dayton project are in place, there will be 211 towers in the area south and west of the Tucannon River.
Carmody contended the county made errors in the project review, including failing to give enough notice and time for comment.
There was no site plan, which county planner Clark Posey said wasn’t necessary, Carmody said.
Other procedural errors included two members of the Board of Adjustment (planning commission) at different meetings stating there might be a conflict of interest. Neither person excused himself from voting on whether to approve the permit.
Developers misrepresented the size of the towers and used a distorted visual impact simulation, Carmody said.
Sandy Mackie, attorney for Broughton Land Company, spoke for the respondents.
Mackie said permitted uses in agriculture zones include many uses that can be unpleasant for residents. Quarries, fertilizer distribution and waste disposal are a few examples of allowed uses, he said.
There are regulations in place to address some of the issues Carmody raised, including noise and avian impact, Mackie said.
After Carmody gave a five-minute rebuttal, Schacht said he denied the petition. There is nothing in the law that says petitioners are entitled to a perfect outcome, he said.
It appeared the members of the Columbia County Board of Adjustment acted in good faith, Schacht said.
The Dayton Wind Project will be constructed by Blue Sky Wind LLC, an affiliate of Renewable Energy Systems, Ltd. The 90 megawatts of electricity anticipated from this project will be transmitted over lines owned by Pacific Corps.
By Carrie Chicken of the Union-Bulletin
1 September 2007
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