Eight years ago, when my wife and I bought a 28-acre farm on the serene and beautiful Tucannon River near Dayton, we had no idea we were in the crosshairs of wind tower developers.
Later, despite being told we would not see the towers, we now look out our dining room window at 43 wind turbines.
About 14 miles northeast of Dayton, where Highway 12 crosses the Tucannon River, you start to see the desecration that the wind projects have wrought.
Drive southeast on Tucannon Road and view the horror of metal monsters flailing the air on the ridge tops all the way to the Umatilla National Forest.
At night, make the short trip from Marengo Junction on Tucannon Road up the northern side of the valley toward Pomeroy. At the top of the valley look southeast, south and west, and view the tragedy of intense strobing red lights that sweep across the horizon.
You can see the synchronized lights of the Hopkins Ridge project, and the even more upsetting erratic flashing of the tower lights of the Marengo I project.
This is visual pollution on an immense, invasive scale with virtually no regulations for its control.
The public has the right to establish policy and regulations regarding the placement of these machines. It is not simply a matter of private property rights. This type of pollution is just as offensive and destructive as feedlots, sewer plants and landfills.
Siting decisions should not be left solely by wind tower developers and selected politicians out of sight of the affected public. The public must remain alert to the required public notices of our local planning departments and become vigorously involved in the planning processes.
Once wind projects begin to develop, getting information from involved landowners becomes nearly impossible. In Columbia County, they are required to sign a gag order with their service lease. One wonders why such secrecy is mandated.
Comprehensive plans must anticipate and provide regulations that assure that private property owners are not physically or financially harmed, and these regulations must preserve the aesthetic values of our communities.
There are huge profits in developing and marketing wind power. Most comes from the pockets of the American people in the form of government subsidies.
Did you ever wonder where the $2 million came from to finance the signature collectors and promotional advertisements for Washington’s 15 percent green power initiative?
Try the Renewable Northwest Project out of Portland, a group significantly funded by wind tower developers. Wind power proponents are so well financed that future wind projects are inevitable.
The public, and many elected officials, have been effectively persuaded that supposedly free wind power has no downside. That’s simply not true. There are many serious issues to be resolved.
It is certain that property values of residences near a wind tower will decline. It is certain that a sterile, uninhabitable area will circle every wind project. It is also certain that visual and sound pollution may have negative effects far beyond any two-mile setback.
Many people in the Dayton area have felt the harmful sting of poorly sited wind towers.
State and county regulations are spotty and insufficient regarding protection of public health. Much more knowledge is developing about the harmful effects of wind towers, and this knowledge should be used in developing and updating tower siting criteria.
Wind tower syndrome effects are being documented in the United States and throughout Europe. Compelling testimony is providing data that show that our accepted standards are not sufficient to prevent harm from wind tower noise and shadow flicker. More information is available at www.wind-watch.org.
In spite of numerous studies that warn of the dangers to all manner of birds and bats, hundreds of wind towers were constructed in Columbia County.
Most of these towers were constructed on ridge lines where raptors and migrating species are especially vulnerable. Placement of towers in these areas should be prohibited, and probably will be only when an aroused public demands so.
Wind power is a strong and growing industry with additional projects planned for Underwood Ridge near White Salmon, another, also on the cusp of the Scenic Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, Ore., and another in Kittitas County.
While in the middle of this green power frenzy, we need to diligently apply common sense, sound science and compassionate conservation to siting wind energy projects.
Please, before embracing a wind energy project nearby, come visit us and see exactly what you are asking for.
By James L. Peterson
James L. Peterson is a longtime Richland School Board member and owns a second home in Dayton. He was a litigant in an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the Marengo II wind project in Columbia County.
18 November 2007
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