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County commissioners oppose Horse Heaven wind farm project; what happens next?

BENTON COUNTY, WA- Benton County Commissioners released a statement Tuesday opposing the Horse Heaven wind farm project leaving many to wonder what happens next.

The proposed wind farm would be a 112-square-mile clean energy production site with wind turbines that would stretch along 24 miles of the Horse Heaven Hills from south of Finley to south of Benton City.

In Tuesday’s statement, commissioners say the county has received over 400 calls and emails from area residents regarding this project and have hosted a public, town hall meeting.

They say an overwhelming majority (approximately 90%) of people who have provided comments do not support this proposal.

“Several thousand people have called in, wrote in either to the county commissioners or other entities it’s right at an 80% of a no, they don’t want it,” Shon Small, Benton County commissioner said.

Scout Clean Energy, the leader of the wind farm project says it will bring over 200 wind turbines to the Horse Heaven Hills area just south of the Tri-Cities.

This week the energy company withdrew its application to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) for expedited processing, which slows down the project. Members notified the state council that it is willing to pursue a full environmental impact statement to allow a robust environmental review with full participation by local residents and others.

“Scout completed a robust environmental checklist as part of our application materials, and we’re confident our project met the criteria for expedited review,” said Dave Kobus the lead project manager for the proposed Horse Heaven Wind Farm.

EFSEC held a town hall Tuesday for the community to share why they are for or against the project. Commissioners say some were for but the majority were against it.

“I get it, you know it would be a good location for wind but why if the power is not going to be used here why? We don’t need the power why do we have to have those impacts of that project here,” Jerome Delvin, Benton County commissioner said.

Commissioners say the community’s concerns range from negative impacts on wildlife to changes in property value, health concerns, noise levels, and area views.

“The windmills will actually reduce the home value number two is where can we turn around and actually continue to develop when we have a whole row of windmills blocking the path south,” Small said.

“People in Benton County and the Tri-Cities region care deeply about preserving their ridges and skylines for future generations,” Will Mckay, Benton County Commissioner said.

Although opposed, Commissioners say it is not up to them to decide. After the environmental study is finished and approved by the EFSE it will head to the governor’s desk and he will have the final say.

If approved, the wind farm would sit on 6500 acres of private and agricultural land and the first phase would be built by the end of 2023.