More than a dozen citizens asked the Wasco County Commission April 3 not to submit a letter of support it wrote for the Summit Ridge wind project east of Dufur. The commission opted to table the matter.
The commission had written the letter on behalf of the owner of the Summit Ridge turbine project to Puget Sound Energy, a Washington-based utility whose role as a power-purchaser in the project is key to its development.
The project was first applied for 10 years ago. It would have up to 72 wind turbines on 11,000 acres about 17 miles southeast of The Dalles and eight miles east of Dufur.
The project has been approved and has changed developers since its initial application, and has been granted extensions since its approval.
“The project would have negative scenic impacts to the lower Deschutes River and the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area with giant turbines spinning 24/7 and red blinking lights at night,” said Peter Cornelison, a field representative of Friends of the Columbia Gorge via email. “The project threatens impacts to bald and golden eagles along the lower Deschutes as well.”
Cornelison also attended the meeting to oppose the project. Other citizens cited economic impacts to tourism and fishing.
Wasco County Commissioner Scott Hege said the letter of support the county had drafted did not have any bearing on whether the project would be approved. Hege said the state had approved the project and is the sole determiner of its validity; the letter is not a stamp of approval from the county, but rather an indication of its support, he said.
The draft letter to Puget Sound Energy says the county will benefit from the project “and we want to assure you the project has our support.” The letter refers to the potential employment of hundreds during the construction phase, long-term jobs and the injection of significant dollars into the local economy. The letter also expresses the commission’s belief that the project would serve as a benchmark for future clean energy projects within the county.
One citizen read a 2007 Oregonian article, written by Hege, in which he criticized a proposed wind project on Sevenmile Hill.
In the 2007 article, Hege wrote, “While perhaps suitable for sparsely settled wheat fields, such an industrial-scale energy generating factory is incompatible with places where we live, work and play. UPC Wind’s proposed facility on Sevenmile Hill would literally tower over the town of Mosier. It would stand out to visitors to about half of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area…It’s a terrible idea for a place that for the last 20 years has been managed and preserved for its remarkable beauty.”
Hege defended his article by saying the situations and projects differ.
Maupin Mayor Lynn Ewing wrote a letter to the commission acknowledging the economic boost such projects provide, but he challenged those benefits with his appreciation for the natural beauty and landscape. He said that while he doesn’t believe every wind farm project needed to be blocked, consideration must be given as to their placement.
He concluded, “Please consider placing some reasonable restrictions on the locations and visibility of this project if it is allowed to move forward.”
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