A revised proposal to build a 58-turbine wind farm east of Ellensburg is again generating opposition from neighbors.
Meanwhile, supporters say they’ve made changes to address concerns and they hope people give the project a chance.
The wind farm, proposed by Columbia Plateau Wind Energy Facility LLC of Mill Creek, would be 15 miles east of Ellensburg. It was first proposed in 2011, but denied by Kittitas County government.
Columbia Plateau Wind Energy Facility LLC spokesman and project director Doug Mitchell said many of the 58 turbine tower locations have been changed and pulled back from ridge lines to significantly reduce views of the towers, he said. He said in some cases, those living near the floor of canyons between ridges won’t see the towers at all.
The changes aim to make the project more compatible with surrounding property owners, Mitchell said, and offset the concerns many had with the 2011 project.
Neighboring landowners, in a group called Kittitas Residents Opposed to Windfarm Sprawl, are organizing again to oppose the project. They warn the wind turbine towers would lower their property values, hurt sale of their lands, and take away the scenic, rural views and natural environment that brought them there in the first place.
The wind farm would sit outside the county’s wind-power overlay zone, and would require county action to expand the zone.
Expanding the zone brings projects closer to rural residents in the Caribou Road, Secret Canyon and other locations, neighbors said.
Harland Radomske of Venture Road is one of the organizers and spokesmen for the KROWS group.
He said members of the county Planning Commission and the county commissioners in 2011 unanimously rejected the first proposal to expand the overlay zone.
“This is so grievous to force the community here to struggle with this all over again,” Radomske said.
It was rejected by overwhelming public comments in 2011 and by the two decision-making bodies and shouldn’t be brought up again, he said.
He says the new project, according to company maps submitted to the county, will bring at least six towers within a quarter mile of his property line and hangars near his private airstrip.
“This will take out my ability to (make a safe approach) to my airstrip and will likely destroy any way I can sell my ranch and get out of it what has been put into it,” said Radomske who has raised horses and cattle on his Venture Farms for 33 years.
Mitchell said he will check Radomske’s concerns but believes new tower locations are a mile or more from his property line.
Mitchell, a resident of Ellensburg and former home builder and reforestation contractor, last week said Columbia Plateau is a consortium of renewable energy companies and partners. He declined to say what companies are backing the project but said that information would be released later. He said partners in Columbia Plateau include Keun Ryu of Mill Creek and Gene Martin of Ellensburg, owner of land to be purchased for the wind farm. Gordon Tang is another property owner within the proposed wind farm area.
He added that all funding for a wind farm has been secured by the consortium. In 2011, the Columbia Plateau effort was backed by two South Korean corporations.
Columbia Plateau is seeking to expand the existing wind-power overlay zone in east county by 3,077 acres to the west to take in Martin’s land and lands owned by the state Department of Natural Resources that would be leased for the wind farm.
Mitchell said Columbia Plateau wants to go through the local government review process for the project because it wants to forge cooperative ties with county government and rural county residents.
“We have elected to go through the local process at this time, instead of the state process, because we would like to build community support for renewable energy,” Mitchell said. “We look foreword to addressing people’s concerns.”
Open houses planned
There will be concerns expressed about this project, as there should be about any large land-use application, Mitchell said. To help the community better understand the project, Columbia Plateau is planning open house events, tours of the site, question-and-answer times and information packets with maps and wind farm views.
The firm is producing a number of simulated views of the wind farm from several different angles and locations.
Meanwhile, neighbors have contacted a land-use attorney in Yakima to represent KROWS. Radomske said he’s contacted another attorney to represent his family’s ranch.
Radomske said he’s learned that planners in the county Community Development Services office have called on Columbia Plateau to provide more details and information about the proposal to better allow the county to make an environmental review of its impacts.
Radomske said if the initial application, that was filed June 28, is inadequate at the filing deadline, it should be thrown out for consideration.
He said his review of the company’s applications shows it has many inconsistencies and inaccurate information.
“It just doesn’t seem fair to give them (Columbia Plateau) more time to correct their application and make it what the county tells them it should be,” Radomske said.
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