The joint public hearing on a wind farm proposal set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds will be the first time county government utilizes its new wind farm overlay zone ordinance to deal with a wind-power project.
The new ordinance, approved in July 2007, designates an approximate 500-square-mile area on the east end of the county as a zone pre-identified for general locations for wind farms.
A streamlined process required by the ordinance applies to companies seeking projects within the new zone that runs along the edge of the Columbia River.
Darryl Piercy, director of the county Community Development Services Department, this morning said wind-power development companies, under the new ordinance, must have their proposals scrutinized as to environmental impacts, how those impacts can be lessened and also must propose a development agreement outlining exactly how the project will be constructed, operated and dismantled.
“We believe the overlay ordinance and the review of this project demonstrates that Kittitas County is supportive of wind farm applications when projects are properly located,” Piercy said, “and when there is adequate environmental information to accurately evaluate the project.”
Piercy said the county’s application review process for sites within the overlay zone offer companies a much more expedited process compared to the state government process and better meets the need of county residents with access to a local government process.
The project under review at the Wednesday hearing is an estimated $250 million, 69-turbine wind farm planned for a 4,750-acre site seven miles west of Vantage between Vantage Highway and Interstate 90. It is sought by Chicago-based Wind North America LLC.
The company formally applied for project approval in mid-October. The project is about three miles southeast of the existing Wild Horse Wind Power Project, a 127-turbine wind farm completed in December 2006 and owned and operated by Puget Sound Energy.
Under the new wind farm overlay zone ordinance, the Kittitas County Planning Commission and the county commissioners will meet 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Manastash Room at the county fairgrounds, under the grandstands.
After the joint hearing is conducted and the time for public testimony is closed, county commissioners will leave the meeting. Planning Commission members then deliberate in public and make a recommendation on the project. The recommendation then goes to county commissioners.
After receiving the Planning Commission recommendation, county commissioners will meet again to deliberate on a final decision whether to approve the project and a proposed development agreement. Commissioners have the option to conduct their own hearing or make a final decision without a second hearing.
The Planning Commission and county commissioners can continue the Wednesday public hearing to a later date to review the hearing record and deliberate on their decisions.
The company proposes to use turbines that are 389 feet high, from the tip of a vertically extended blade to the ground.
The elongated wind farm project area is between Vantage Highway and I-90 and takes in land owned by four entities: Don Gerard of Eastsound, Doris Clerf of Kittitas, Poison Springs LLC of Kittitas and and state-owned acreage managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
There are two pathways for wind-power generation companies to gain wind farm approvals in the county: file solely with the county utilizing local land-use ordinances or file with the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
By Mike Johnston
11 March 2008
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