STATUS: In progress, with opposition
OPPOSITION: National Park Service; U.S. Forest Service; Friends of the Gorge, SOSA; Friends of Columbia George
BACKGROUND: The Whistling Ridge project would consist of up to fifty wind turbines producing a potential of 75 megawatts of electricity. The developer is Whistling Ridge Energy. About 330 workers would be employed at some point during construction. According to the Socioeconomic Impacts in the Application for Site Certification, the “total economic impact (direct, indirect, and induced) is expected to be $8.5 million in value added and 107 jobs.” Operation would require up to nine full-time employees. The total cost of construction would be an estimated $150 million.
Opponents cite a long list of problems with the project ranging from noise pollution and impaired views to proximity to the federal Columbia River National Scenic Area. Opponents also cite “Wind Turbine Syndrome,” a claim that wind turbines adversely impact the health of individuals living in close proximity. Friends of the Gorge and SOSA, for example, are fighting the project due to its potential aesthetic impacts.
The project would be visible from land protected by the 1986 Columbia Gorge Scenic Act. The Act restricts turbine development on scenic land, but not on land outside the boundaries of the act. Despite that provision, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service oppose the erection of wind turbines in areas that can be seen from the protected Gorge lands. The agencies have faced heavy criticism from Skamania County commissioners and the developer as well as U.S Reps., Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, and Doc Hastings, R-Pasco.
The state decision on the project will be made after Gov. Chris Gregoire receives recommendations from the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. The Bonneville Power Administration is conducting the federal evaluation of the project. If the two disagree, the project will be canceled. A decision is expected in the fall of 2011.
SOURCES: Whistling Ridge Energy: http://whistlingridgeenergy.com/site/;
Access Washington: http://www.efsec.wa.gov/whistling%20ridge.shtml;
WindWorks! Northwest: http://www.wwnw.org/uploads/local/Tim%20Killian%20&%20Arlene%20Bradford%20LTE.pdf;
AWB Magazine: http://www.rdkco.com/news.tpl?newsid=1268685268290712;
The Columbian: http://www.columbian.com/news/2010/sep/08/lets-not-spoil-gorges-gorgeous-views/?print
Last updated December 2, 2010