The Umatilla County Planning Commission gave the green light to an Oregon wind farm project in Echo Thursday night.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a land-use permit for the wind farm’s transmission line along Highway 207. The line will carry the project’s electricity to a PacifiCorp substation at Hinkle.
For the project’s investors, the land-use permit was the final hurdle they had to clear before building the wind farm.
“We hope to start construction on Monday,” said Kent Madison, an investor in the project.
Several people said they were against the transmission line during the planning commission meeting, which was filled with more than 70 people and lasted until nearly 10 p.m.
High voltage lines devalue property and endanger the health of cattle and people, said Dixie Echeverria, who lives along Highway 207. Furthermore, she said, having lines on both sides of the highway would make it impossible for farmers to move some machinery down the road and hamper farmers’ ability to use cropdusters and helicopters to spray their land.
Another point of contention between the investors and those opposing the project was the amount of taxes the wind farm would pay the county.
Echeverria and Tamra Mabbot, the Umatilla County planning directory, said the wind farm would not pay the amount of taxes its investors claim. Echeverria said she was told by state tax assessor Grant Merrill the wind farm was on an accelerated tax depreciation schedule, which would lower the taxes it pays dramatically after five years.
Glenn Ikemoto, a partner at Oregon wind farms, insisted the project would pay $350,000 per year to Umatilla County in property taxes for the next 15 years.
The commission finally agreed the amount of taxes the wind farm would pay was unknown at this time.
Commissioner Tammie Williams said she sympathized with those who live near the line, but Umatilla County needed the money the wind farm would bring.
“It would be a disadvantage to this community not to have that money generated,” she said.
Chairman Gary Rhinhart said there were 13 other wind farm projects in the planning stages in Umatilla County and he worried there was not enough room for everyone’s transmission lines.
“I’d like to see electric companies hook up this wind power so we don’t have to hurt any more people than we have to,” Rhinhart said.
The commissioners said, despite their concerns, the investors had met the requirements for a land-use permit.
By Erin Mills
14 June 2008
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