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Swauk ranch wind-power project OK’d

Although Kittitas County commissioners approved the Swauk Valley Ranch LLC wind-power proposal in a 2-1 vote on Tuesday, the project has a long way to go before turbines can go up.

Commissioners Paul Jewell and Obie O’Brien voted yes, Commissioner Alan Crankovich voted no.

The approval came as part of the annual process to amend the county’s comprehensive land-use plan, zone code and development rules. The majority vote OK’d the creation of a 380-acre wind-power overlay zone in the midst of the 3,864-acre privately owned ranch.

The families owning the land plan to erect up to five wind-power turbines using 40 acres. The towers may range from 240 to 270 feet tall from ground to the tip of a vertically extended rotor blade.

The power generated would go into the Puget Sound Energy grid for local use, according to the proposal.

County Planner Dan Valoff said proponents are now required to complete and submit several studies, including evaluating and mitigating project impacts on wildlife, the viewshed, local bodies of water, wildfire risks, groundwater and others.

Development agreement

A development agreement outlining specific actions the ranch will take in constructing, operating and decommissioning the turbines also will be required.

A public hearing to review the agreement must be held before county commissioners.

Crankovich, earlier this week, said it was a hard decision for him, but he voted against the project because it was creating, or extending, the existing wind-power overlay zone.

A much larger request to extend the zone, involving 5,760 acres, was unanimously turned down by commissioners.

“Again, if we approved this smaller request and allow random expansions around the county, where does it stop?” Crankovich said.

Jewell said the Swauk Valley proposal was vastly different than the larger proposal, and should be treated differently.

Jewell said the Swauk project was supported in writing by the Yakama Nation and the state wildlife agency, involved setbacks much larger than required, and was not a commercial wind farm but a small, distributed power facility with its electricity used locally.