For public health and safety: Umatilla County is one of the most populated counties on the east side of the state and the first county to have wind turbines in Oregon. Umatilla County has spent years trying to properly plan for wind development. This includes trying to put in protections for our citizens and threatened and endangered species for the livability of our county.
In 2011 the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners passed a two-mile setback from residents and cities. Before Umatilla County developed new wind turbine siting guidelines in 2011 the same rules had been in place at both the county and state level for the first wind turbines at 100 feet tall. Now the towers are being constructed at over 400 feet tall and getting bigger. The state has rules in place for noise set at varying decibel levels but is not funding or enforcing these rules. It is up to the impacted individual to pay for the enforcement (i.e. noise tests and lawyers) or live with the impact or give up and move.
Ibedrola Helix project has asked for a second amendment to postpone new construction to begin in 2014 and end in 2017. The Helix project is yet to start construction despite applying for the original permit in 2009. Oregon law clearly states that the current rule for public health and safety at the time an amendment is granted shall apply.
The Department of Justice and the Department of Energy told the energy facility siting council that it was illegal to apply the county’s new rules to the second amendment to the Helix project and refused to grant a contested case hearing on behalf of the citizens to apply the new rules.
A small group of Umatilla County citizens have had to take this to the Oregon Supreme Court in hopes of getting these laws properly applied to the project. When the protections are in place for all citizens, communities and the environment, and proper planning is achieved, there should be a road map to where wind development will properly fit and coexist with the citizens of Umatilla County.
This article was published by East Oregonian, located in Morrow County ( OR ), Umatilla County ( OR ), and written by Richard Jolly Weston.
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