ELLENSBURG – The wind definitely blew in the right direction on Wednesday for Invenergy Wind North America LLC as the Chicago-based company received nothing but supportive public comments during a hearing on its plan for a wind farm east of Ellensburg.
Roger Clerf of Peoh Point reflected opinions expressed by others in the joint hearing before the Kittitas County Planning Commission and the county commissioners. He said energy costs, especially for oil, are going nowhere but up.
“I support wind power in general and this wind farm in particular,” said Clerf. “We need this energy, the county needs this energy. The wind is free. This is a good project, and it’s in a good location.”
Before an audience of about 60 people, the company presented details of the firm’s plans for the 69-turbine, $250 million to $300 million Vantage Wind Power Project located seven miles west of Vantage and 15 miles east of Ellensburg, sandwiched between Vantage Highway and Interstate 90.
Dave Iadarola, Invenergy’s project developer, said the two, closest residents to the project are about three-forths of a mile from proposed turbine sites, and others are a mile or more away. He said the closest neighbors are supportive of the project.
A minimum setback of a half mile will be maintained between turbines and any structures, he said.
He said studies of environmental, visual and wildlife concerns indicate the project will have minimal negative impacts.
Iadarola said it’s estimated the project, if approved to begin in late summer 2008 and start operating in spring 2009, would bring 150 to 200 construction workers to the site. In operation the wind farm would require six to eight full-time workers, he said.
He estimated the wind farm would generate $290,000 in local government tax funds a year, with much going to Kittitas School District.
Iadarola said Invenergy is committed to cooperate with the main contractors to hire local, skilled workers whenever possible during construction. He said Invenergy also will try to hire local residents for its permanent jobs at the wind farm.
At one point, Desmond Knudson of Ellensburg told county Commissioners Mark McClain and Alan Crankovich he objected to the fact that Dist. 1 Commissioner David Bowen had recused himself from all matters pertaining to the Invenergy wind farm proposal.
Bowen has taken a job with Puget Sound Energy, which operates the Wild Horse Wind Power Project, and PSE may purchase power from the Invenergy wind farm.
Knudson said he was disappointed there was no commissioner to represent Dist. 1 residents. McClain said all commissioners represent all residents of the county and can represent their concerns.
Knudson, who supports the project, later said he was disappointed that there were no copies of the proposed development agreement between Invenergy and the county available at the hearing.
He also said safeguards in the agreement involving public health, safety and welfare were not in the agreement, including pacts with local fire districts to protect the site.
Planning Commission member Kim Green asked about hunter access to the wind farm site and having commitments to hire local residents put in the agreement.
Iadarola said the wind farm sites are leased from local property owners who make their own decisions on whether to allow hunters on their land. He reiterated that the company would do all it can to hire local residents, but may have to go to neighboring communities to seek more workers if not enough are available in Kittitas County.
Green said she wants to make sure the company follows through “to the letter” with the requirements and commitments placed on the company to protect the environment and wildlife, and requirements to restore the area after construction.
Commissioners McClain and Crankovich suggested agreement modifications involving the company taking on Vantage Highway maintenance work, decommissioning the site and renewing the development agreement.
By Mike Johnston
13 March 2008
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