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Commissioners deny power line for proposed wind farm

Umatilla County Commissioners agreed with the planning commission and denied a power line proposed by a company looking to build a wind farm between Milton-Freewater and Athena. On Nov. 17 the Umatilla County Planning Commission denied WKN Chopin’s plans for an 11-mile power line to hook up its proposed 99-megawatt, 33-turbine wind farm.

The permit to build the wind farm has been approved.

The company appealed the planning commission’s decision, filing papers on Dec. 6. On Monday the county commissioners, too, denied the plan for the line.

Commissioners Dennis Doherty and Larry Givens believed there were better alternatives to WKN’s plan to build a new transmission line. WKN has changed the planned power line from 230 kilovolts to 69 kilovolts, which was the size company representatives and attorneys referenced Monday.

There are already three power lines in the area, which should have been better vetted when WKN made its proposal, Givens said.

Doherty thought the 20-mile power line owned by Umatilla Electric Cooperative, based in Hermiston, was the best option. According to WKN and Umatilla Electric officials, two miles of new line would have needed to be added, and the existing line would need to upgraded.

What those upgrades would entail, said Umatilla Electric spokesman Nate Rivera, would depend on a feasibility study that had not been done.

Steve Corey, an attorney representing WKN, said after the meeting the company does not yet know what its next step will be.

County Council Doug Olsen said county staff will prepare a written order. Once that is done, if WKN chooses, it can appeal to the state through Land Use Board of Appeals.

Commissioner Bill Hansell recused himself after Norm Kralman, a citizen and member of Blue Mountain Alliance, questioned a conflict of interest. Corey is a member of Hansell’s campaign financial team and steering committee in his run for the Senate seat for District 29. Hansell said he did not feel he had a conflict of interest, but recused himself anyway.