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Commissioners deny appeal, give go-ahead to wind farm

Umatilla County Commissioners gave the go-ahead to the Chopin Wind Project at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

With a 2-1 split vote, the commissioners approved allowing the 99-megawatt, 33-turbine project slated to be built on farm ground between Milton-Freewater and Athena, with stipulations it obey state noise regulations.

Commissioners Bill Hansell and Dennis Doherty voted for overturning the appeal by Blue Mountain Alliance, the conservation group which posits its stance as wanting a stronger plan for where windmills are built in Umatilla County. Blue Mountain Alliance raised six points of contention with the application by WKN USA, the company behind the Chopin Wind Project.

By turning down that appeal, the commissioners upheld the planning commission’s Nov. 10 decision to give a permit to the project with the stipulations.

Hansell and Doherty both said an integral part of their decision was the assurance by WKN USA’s attorney Steve Corey that the company is willing to follow the state standards and work with the county to monitor the noise from the wind farm over the next five years.

Commissioner Larry Givens voted against his colleagues. He said he felt more work and research needed to be done on many of the points Blue Mountain Alliance raised, including noise, viewshed and economic issues like property values.

Members of Blue Mountain Alliance said they did not know what the group will do next.

Ed Chesnut said he wasn’t surprised at the outcome. He estimated the appeal’s chances as 50-50, especially in dealing with sensitive issues like noise. Debbie Kelley said she was disappointed.

On the opposite side, WKN USA Project Manager Eric Johnston said he is “very happy” with the commissioners’ decision to uphold the planning commission’s ruling.