Now that Horizon Wind Energy’s application to build the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm in the Craig Mountain area of Union has been deemed complete, it’s time for the public to weigh in with the state.
Valerie Franklin, Horizon’s Antelope Ridge project manager, told The Observer today that the Oregon Department of Energy ruled Dec. 30 that the application is ready for review and public comment.
She said the company looks forward to upcoming public meetings.
“We’re very excited for that to happen,” she said.
Franklin said completion of the application doesn’t mean the controversial project has the go-ahead. The department’s Energy Facility Siting Council now must decide whether the project meets siting standards spelled out in Oregon Administrative Rules.
As part of the process, Energy Facility Siting Council is opening a public comment period. Diana Enright, ODE’s communication manager, said a first information meeting is scheduled in Union Jan. 25.
She said oral comments will be accepted at that meeting. In addition, a formal public hearing will be held later.
“That’s important. We’re looking for comments on the application. The public hearing is where people really need to participate if they want to have standing,” she said.
The time and location in Union of the Jan. 25 meeting have yet to be decided. A date has not yet been determined for the subsequent public hearing.
Horizon submitted its Notice of Intent with ODE in April 2009, and filed its preliminary application for a site certificate the following October.
In December 2009, the department issued a first Request for Additional Information. Horizon filed a response in January 2010.
Then a second RAI asked for updated information on length of underground and overhead collection lines, number of turbines proposed, length of new roads to be constructed, potential location of an operations and maintenance facility and a host of other issues including wildlife and wetlands impacts.
The second RAI noted that Horizon plans to revise some wildlife-related documents, including a finalized big game study, a sage grouse survey memorandum, a response to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife comments and more.
The department said in the second RAI it would withhold comment until the new material is submitted.
At the same time, it asked for more information on possible impacts on several identified sensitive species, including white-tailed jackrabbit, western toad and western painted turtle.
Another section of the RAI dealt with impacts on wetlands. The department said there were several issues that needed to be resolved concerning those.
In all, the new RAI considered 30 exhibits previously submitted by Horizon.
A few of the exhibits were deemed complete; in a few others, the department acknowledged that Horizon might need time beyond the Sept. 30 deadline to respond.
Horizon’s proposal to build the 300-megawatt wind farm has sharply divided the local community.
A non-binding advisory vote last November asked whether local citizens favored construction. Fifty-two percent of voters said they were against it, while 48 percent said they favored it.
Opponents say the wind farm would have negative impacts on scenery, property values, wildlife, the tourism industry, historical resources and more.
Other people favor the project on the grounds it would create jobs and promote economic development, and produce green energy.
Horizon’s application is available for review at http://www.horizonwindfarms.com/western-region/under-dev/antelope-ridge.htm.
The application is also available for review at the Union and La Grande public libraries.
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