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West Ridge and East Ridge Wind Projects, Harney County, OR

STATUS: In progress with opposition

TYPE:  Wind Project

OPPOSITION: The Oregon National Desert Association (ONDA); Audubon Society of Portland; Nature Conservancy

PROSPECTS:  Indeterminate

BACKGROUND: Columbia Energy Partners (CEP) wanted to build its West Ridge and East Ridge wind projects, consisting of 200 wind turbines along the northern boundary of the Steens Mountain Wilderness. Each  project would generate up to 104 megawatts of electricity.  The state of Oregon requires that 25% of the electricity used in the state come from renewable energy source by 2025.  Each project would have cost more than $200 million to design and build, a total of $400 million. 

While many local residents are eager for the jobs and tax revenue that would result from the project, environmental groups claim that the turbines, access roads and transmission lines would harm fragile wildlife, such as sage grouse and pygmy rabbits, and destroy scenery.  

When CEP first filed applications for these projects, ONDA, the Audubon Society and the Nature conservancy filed opposition. Both groups also accuse Columbia Energy of dividing the Steens projects into three pieces of about 104 megawatts each to skirt the state scrutiny that kicks in for projects of 105 megawatts or more. On January 23, 2009, CEP announced the withdrawal of permit applications for both projects stating that withdrawal would ensure sufficient time to complete ongoing environmental assessments of the two sites. The company expects to begin construction on one in2012 and the other in 2013, if they get permits.

In July 2010, it was announced that development of the projects, which had not won county approval, hinged on approval of a high-voltage transmission line that would cross federal lands. “The outcome will depend on how the public responds to the draft environmental impact statement currently under review,” Renchler said. The final study was due November 1, 2010.

SOURCES: Oregon Live
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/08/wind_farm_plans_clash_with_pri.html; http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/02/oregons_steens_mountain_could.html;
Columbia Energy Partners: http://columbiaenergypartners.com/projects/west-ridge/; http://columbiaenergypartners.com/projects/east-ridge/;
Harney Country Government: http://www.co.harney.or.us/East%20Ridge%20Windpower%20Application.html;
Ashland Daily Tiding: http://www.dailytidings.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100719/NEWS/7190307/-1/NEWSMAP;
Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012397855_aporwindpowertransmissionline2ndldwritethru.html

Last updated November 23, 2010