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Agencies want a say in Kittitas Co., Wash. wind farm’s future April 21, 2009

Three agencies, including Kittitas County, want to intervene and affect the future of the Desert Claim wind power project north of Ellensburg.

The Washington state Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council will consider the requests during a council meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hal Holmes Community Center, 209 N. Ruby St. in Ellensburg.

To gain intervener status, petitioners must tell the council how they would be affected by the 5,200-acre wind farm project. The council may approve the petitions at the hearing or wait until a later date.

In addition to the county, the petitioners are The Economic Development Group of Kittitas County, the county’s economic development arm, and the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

Representatives of the state agency and the county economic development group said their petitions favor the project.

Ron Cridlebaugh, executive director for The Economic Development Group of Kittitas County, said the group supports the plan because of the economic stimulus, jobs and added tax base it will provide.

Desert Claim Wind Power, owned by a French firm, enXco, wants to build a 95-turbine wind farm on 5,200 acres, about eight miles north of Ellensburg.

The firm decided to seek state approval after the county denied its application. A revised proposal was submitted to the council in February, calling for reductions in the number of turbines as well as the number of residences that would be within a 2,500-foot setback from the turbines.

If built, Desert Claim’s $330 million project would generate enough energy for 57,000 homes. The project would create 160 jobs during construction and a total payroll of $3.6 million.

Kittitas County is home to the Wild Horse wind farm, east of Ellensburg. The Vantage Wind Farm nearby is yet to start construction. A third facility, Kittitas Valley Wind Farm, has been approved, but may not start construction until next year.

Tony Usibelli, assistant director for Community Trade and Economic Development, said the agency routinely intervenes in siting energy projects.

“We think it is a good project, but it has to go through the council process,” he said.

County officials argued in filings earlier in the case that the changes made to the size and scope of Desert Claim made an application for approval to the state premature.

Should the council ultimately recommend Gov. Chris Gregoire approve Desert Claim, it would mark the second time the state has overridden county opposition. A council recommendation to approve the nearby Horizon Wind Energy project was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

By DAVID LESTER, Yakima Herald-Republic


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