BURNS – Developers on Thursday dropped plans for two wind energy projects on the north slopes of Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon.
Columbia Energy Partners LLC and its affiliate, CEP Funding of Vancouver, Wash., canceled the East Ridge and West Ridge projects on private property for “business, regulatory and environmental” concerns, said Chris Crowley, Columbia Energy’s president.
The Oregon Natural Desert Association and Audubon Society of Portland had opposed the wind farms.
Columbia Energy plans to proceed with the controversial $300 million Echanis wind project on the mountain’s north end. Echanis would incorporate 40 to 60 wind turbines across 10,000 acres, producing 104 megawatts – enough to power about 30,000 homes.
The company also hopes eventually to proceed with a separate wind energy project on Riddle Mountain, to the northeast of Steens Mountain, Crowley said.
Echanis has won approval from Harney County, but the final go-ahead still hinges on U.S. Bureau of Land Management approval of an electrical transmission line, Crowley said.
The company has scrapped a proposed 29-mile transmission line paralleling an existing electrical line that crosses the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Steens Mountain and is seeking approval for a more expensive 46-mile line across mostly private land, he said.
BLM officials issued a final environmental impact statement for the transmission line right-of-way over federal lands in October, Crowley said. Approval of the right-of-way could be granted before Jan. 1, which would clear the way for the Echanis construction, he said.
Columbia Energy hopes its decision to drop the East and West ridge projects will result in broad public support and government approval for the Echanis project, he said. All three have spurred objections because they would rise from the juniper and sagebrush on the mountain’s spectacular fault-block slopes.
Echanis also came under criticism from the desert association for its proposal to build turbines in proximity to habitat for falcons, golden eagles and sage grouse.
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