November 4, 2007

Group forming to battle windmill farm project

The wide open spaces and natural terrain and wildlife of Southeastern Washington are fading, and some residents would like the encroaching effects of urbanization toned down, such as a proposed project that would place 35 to 50 turbines on Rattlesnake Mountain.

More than 30 people showed up Saturday at the Richland Community Center for a meeting to oppose a proposed windmill farm at the base of the mountain.

Many in the group, which doesn’t have a name, were landowners, conservationists and other wind farm critics who live in the Mid-Columbia.

“It’s important that we act quickly on this matter regarding the proposed use of wind power on Rattlesnake Mountain,” said Patrick Guettner, the organizer of the meeting. “They are not a fit way to use that mountain.”

Others were more direct in expressing their opposition.

“Windmills, as a whole, rape the landscape,” said one man, who asked not to be identified. His comment was applauded by the other people at the meeting.

James Dillman, a Richland architect, said the giant wind turbines would be out of scale on Rattlesnake Mountain, and that would tarnish the natural landscape, have a negative impact on wildlife and possibly effect tourism.

Rick Leaumont, chairman of the Audubon Society’s conservation committee, agreed that urgency in protesting the project is necessary because about 238 bird species have been documented in the area, and would be effected by the windmills.

“Wildlife needs some kind of solitude, a place that is theirs,” Leaumont said. “Any location on the mountain would be a problem.”

The consensus of everyone in the group was that they would rather look at nuclear power plants at Hanford than windmill turbines on Rattlesnake.

John Becker of Kennewick said wind power was not an economical source of power. Becker, who retired from Battelle as a technology manager, is the project manager for ELR Consulting in Kennewick.

Becker said windmill vibrations affect the environment as well as the visual eyesore from their immense size. He also didn’t believe there was enough profit in wind power to justify the impact to the environment.

“Windmills might be cleaner, but the bottom line is that economically, they are not a smart source of power,” he said. “When I worked in California (in the 1970s) lots of these windmill farms went up and they were eventually taken back down because didn’t prove to be cost effective.”

The group plans to meet every two weeks and share research information in an effort to find ways to stop the project before it gets off the ground.

“It’s up to private citizens like us to make a difference in this matter,” Guettner said. “We must act fast.”

By Dori O’Neal
Herald Staff Writer

Tri-City Herald

4 November 2007

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