August 5, 2011
Opinions, Oregon

County’s decision should stand

By James M. Burns, East Oregonian, 5 August 2011

I am a member of Blue Mountain Alliance, which has been fighting the siting of wind tower generation facilities on the face of the Blues.

In 1972 I was on the Milton-Freewater Planning Commission and spent eight years with the rest of the planning commission writing the Milton-Freewater Comprehensive Plan and the Development Ordinances to implement that plan.

Upon completion of that plan I moved into the county (Umatilla), and was approached by the Umatilla County Commissioners to serve on the Umatilla County Planning Commission and get their comprehensive plan started, as the planning commission had not started work on it yet.

I spent 12 years with many good people that came on the planning commission to write the Umatilla County Comprehensive Plan and Development Ordinances to implement that plan.

Since then I have served on several committees to update those plans.

When we wrote those plans we had help from Thousand Friends of Oregon on many of the legal, moral and common sense decisions that were required by state statutes.

We were to look at not individual rights first, but the rights of the majority, what was best for the people of Umatilla County as a whole. We did not look at the financial gains of a few if it was not good for the majority or it hindered the rights of the whole.

The wish of the citizens of Oregon when they passed land use law was that individual rights were given up for the good of all. You could not hinder your neighbors’ rights with what you wished to do.

People understood these rules and regulations. There were hundreds of meetings all over the county so that people could voice their opinion – and their opinion was that people could not benefit from deriving a benefit on the backs of their neighbors.

Since then I have watched this law be butchered, beaten and slashed to pieces by the different state legislators, the courts, the governors, Land Conservation and Development Commission and Land Use Board of Appeals. Today it has turned around and those with money can buy any part of the government they want, and are doing it on the backs of those that suffer from what they develop.

The first rule that has been trampled into the dirt was the most important part of the original land use law: the protection of farm ground and forest ground. There is no way you can prove or justify the placement of huge wind towers on farm ground. They are not a farming practice. They provide no type of farm product. They are not green energy and they are the most inefficient alternative energy source on this planet. They cannot stand on their own, they are dependent on hydro power to be able to even provide power. Without hydro power, which they do not even appreciate by their actions over the last several months, they would have to build a dirty (not green) natural gas electric power plant so they could generate the little power they do generate. They are only 18 to 22 percent efficient. They need around 3,000 acres of farm ground for 65 turbines. We could be putting solar panels on that same 3,000 acres and provide more power than all the turbines that are presently in this state today. The price savings would be astronomical. By the time we have to meet the directive of 20 percent green power, each family in Oregon will be paying an additional $2,700 a year for that wind power.

At some time in this game we are playing, the state of Oregon must start protecting the fish and wildlife of this state. There is a study done here in ODFW in Union County that showed in two years that 65 to 75 percent of deer and elk would not winter where the wind towers were running. The whole face of the Blue Mountains is a wintering area for thousands of deer and elk. These animals would all move up into the high mountains and would soon be extinct from winter kill. The Walla Walla River has one endangered fish, the bull trout, and two listed fish, steelhead and salmon. There is no way that wind towers can be put on the face of the Blues without increasing the turbidity runoff into the Walla Walla River and its tributaries that would kill thousands of the above-listed fish. Wind towers need to be banned from ever moving onto and into the Blue Mountains.

So now LUBA has the power to change all the mistakes that have been done to the citizens of this state and start making decisions that was the original intent of the land use laws. The citizens of Umatilla County have spoken – they want wind power to no longer run rampant over the rights of those people who would have to live next to those noisy, vibrating, ugly towers. In less than 10 days 3,400 citizens of this county signed petitions that they approved what the Umatilla County Planning Commission spent almost three years and hundreds of hours developing, with hundreds of people providing input into writing this plan. If we would have had 30 days we would have had three times that many signatures.

So now it is in your hands. Will you stand with the citizens of this state and this county and protect the people who will suffer from having these built in their back yard, or will you side with the money of the wind-generating people and let them remain running over the people of Umatilla County?

I hope that LUBA does the right thing and let stand what the government of this county has decided.

James M. Burns is a resident of Weston.

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