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Environmental groups sue to block wind turbines on Steens Mountain

The Oregon Natural Desert Association and Audubon Society of Portland filed a lawsuit Thursday, April 5, challenging the siting of a wind turbine complex at Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon.

The lawsuit argues that 70 wind turbines and a high-capacity electrical transmission line will mar the “otherwise wild and beautiful landscape.”

The Echanis Wind Energy Project is proposed by Vancouver, Wash.-based Columbia Energy Partners on private land in the Steens area. The project was approved in December by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Columbia announced in November that it would drop plans for two of its three proposed wind developments at Steens, due to opposition from environmentalists and other concerns. But the opponents want the whole project killed.

“Steens Mountain is to Oregon’s deserts what Crater Lake is to our forests, a truly special place we should protect for future generations,” says Brent Fenty, executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Congress enacted protections for Steens Mountain in 2000, including 170,000 acres of wilderness designation.