August 25, 2011

Tribes side with county on setbacks

By SAMANTHA TIPLER, East Oregonian, 24 August 2011

Twelve more petitioners joined the effort to overturn the Umatilla County law mandating 2-mile setbacks on wind turbines, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation has joined on the county side.

Robert and Cheryl Cosner, of Upper Dry Creek Ranch, Weston, filed their appeal July 19 to the siting restrictions imposed in June by the Umatilla County commissioners.

The Cosners filed the original appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals in Salem; the others joined that appeal.

The Cosners’ attorney, Ed Sullivan of the Portland firm Garvey Schubert Barer, said his clients hope to overturn the setback. Among other provisions, the law calls for a 2-mile setback between any wind turbine and any home, and special protections for an area of the Blue Mountains east of Highway 11.

“This ordinance makes it impossible for wind farming to occur in huge swaths of Umatilla County,” Sullivan said.

The Cosners declined to comment on their appeal at this time.

Sullivan also represents Dick Stewart, a College Place, Wash., man who owns property on upper Dry Creek. Stewart joined the appeal July 22.

Stewart said he wanted to protect his rights as a property owner and would like to see the new laws overturned or changed.

“I just didn’t like the way that the county commissioners had passed (the laws),” he said. “I didn’t think it was right for the landowners rights. We have rights, too.”

As to whether he had agreements with any wind-energy companies, Stewart said, “That’s confidential. “

He did say he supports wind energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“I think it’s the wave of the future,” he said.

Since the law went into effect, the county has received no application for new wind farms. But it has received applications for two meteorological towers, usually a precursor to developing a wind farm.

Ted Reid, address unknown, joined the Cosners’ appeal July 27. He was followed by Jo Lynn and Tom Buell of Weston and eight others, who joined Aug. 9. The eight others are Barbara Clutter of Milton-Freewater, Ken and Ida Schiewe of Weston, Greg and Dorris Tsiatsos of Starkey, Jim Hatley of Pilot Rock, Herb March of Milton-Freewater and Fred Reichow of Milton-Freewater.

The window to join either the appeal of the siting law or join in its defense has closed.

Only the CTUIR joined on the county side before the deadline.

“The CTUIR has worked tirelessly for decades to protect, enhance and restore fish and wildlife habitat, as well as cultural resources significant to the CTUIR within Umatilla County,” according to a motion to intervene filed Aug. 8 by Joe Pitt, attorney for the tribes. “The CTUIR supported the Umatilla County Development Code amendments concerning wind development because they safeguard against negative impacts to fish and wildlife habitat and cultural resources that could occur with less restrictive wind siting rules.”

Along with the motion to intervene, Pitt included 10 pages of letters between members of the CTUIR and the county, including a letter and statement from Leo Stewart, CTUIR board of trustees vice-chair.

“These rules provide more certainty and define standards that will benefit both industry as well as adjacent landowners while protecting the interests of all residents of Umatilla County,” the vice-chair’s letter reads in part.

Umatilla County on Aug. 10, ahead of a deadline, filed with the board of appeals all records – more than 150 exhibits, 4,442 pages of letters, studies, legal opinions and other information – that were generated in the course of enacting the wind-turbine regulations.

The Cosners have 21 days from Aug. 10 to submit their brief explaining why they want the wind siting rules overturned.

The county has 21 days to respond, after which the appeals board may schedule a hearing.

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