Energy | Environment

Council Approves Whistling Ridge Wind Project

Northwest Public Radio | Oct. 7, 2011 10:18 a.m.

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Wind turbines like these are one step closer to being errected in forestland on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

Wind turbines like these are one step closer to being errected in forestland on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

Amelia Templeton

STEVENSON, Wash. – A proposed wind farm (link) in Skamania County is one step closer to construction. Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (link) recommended has that Gov. Chris Gregoire approve the project, with a few modifications.

However, in recommending the project Thursday, the council asked that the wind farm be scaled back from 50 to 35 turbines, saying this would protect scenic areas in the Columbia River Gorge and reduce noise pollution in Underwood, the closest community to the project.

By The Numbers:

Capacity: 75 megawatts

Turbine height: 420 feet

Turbine size: 1.2 to 2.5 megawatts

Proposed turbines: 50

Turbine recommendation: 35

The recommendation eliminates seven turbines from the Underwood area and eight east of the Hood River. Nathan Baker, staff attorney for Friends of the Columbia Gorge (link), said his group was encouraged that the council considered scenic impacts. But, he said, it did not go far enough.

“The Columbia Gorge is a national treasure, and this is simply the wrong location for this project,” Baker said.

The project will be the first in the Northwest constructed on timberlands. Several groups raised concerns that it could harm spotted owl populations. Baker said the council did not discuss wildlife mitigation at the meeting. Project developer Jason Spadaro did not return calls.

Groups can submit reconsideration requests to the council for 20 days. If any requests are submitted, there will be 14 days for review. After that, Gov. Gregoire has 60 days to approve the project.

(A map of Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council wind projects.)


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