Formal adjudicative hearings by the state to examine the proposed Desert Claim Wind Power Project will likely begin the week of July 13 in Ellensburg, according to a tentative scheduled submitted last week.
The schedule, including deadlines for pre-filed testimony and rebuttal of that testimony, was suggested to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, during the council’s day of meetings conducted Thursday in Ellensburg on the Desert Claim project.
Thursday’s meetings included a ruling on approving intervenors in the decision-making process and taking testimony that evening on an environmental impact study of the wind farm, which has been downsized from 120 turbines to 95.
During the evening hearing, by one attendee’s count, nearly 80 people attended, and 28 people testified to EFSEC: of the 28, 20 voiced support for the wind farm’s construction and operation, seven were opposed to the project or aspects of it and one person’s comments reflected a neutral position.
Project developer, enXco Inc., estimates the total investment in the proposal is more than $330 million, with turbine sites spread on 5,200-acres of private and state-owned land eight miles northwest of Ellensburg north of Smithson Road.
EFSEC eventually will make a recommendation to Gov. Chris Gregoire on the 95-turbine wind farm after the Ellensburg hearings, and the governor then makes the final decision.
EFSEC hopes to make the recommendation before the end of the year.
David Steeb, enXco’s project director, after the Thursday sessions, said many people attended the evening meeting and expressed support for the project because “they want Desert Claim’s economic benefits as soon as EFSEC and Gov. Gregoire can approve them” in the form of local tax revenue, jobs and increased local business.
“We know we are doing the right thing when our supporters represent schools, businesses, ranching, renewable power and just basic citizens,” Steeb said. “That’s a real, genuine cross section of this community.”
Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marshall Madsen, after the hearing, said the chamber didn’t speak to the environmental impacts of the project, but assessed its support among chamber members.
In regard to wind farm support, Madsen said a survey of those responding indicated 90 percent supported wind farm development.
Anita Boyum, contacted later, said she spoke in general support of the wind farm’s location within the Ellensburg School District and the economic benefits it would give to funding education and district projects.
She said the Ellensburg School District Board, of which she is chairperson, on Wednesday passed a resolution supporting the general location of the wind farm in the district and its effect to broaden the district’s tax base that would, in turn, support future school levies and school bonds.
Boyum said she was reporting on the district board’s resolution and represented the Washington School Director Association’s Trust Land Task Force, of which she is chair, and the Board of Governors of the Children’s Land Alliance.
One speaking against the project was Eloise Kirchmeyer of Reecer Creek Road. After the hearing, she said she is one of seven non-participating landowners whose property line is within 2,500 feet of a proposed turbine location.
Kirchmeyer said setbacks between property lines and turbines should be at least a mile, which is a standard observed in many European projects.
She said she is concerned about the effect of the proposed project on her property values, indicating she hasn’t been able to sell her land in three years of effort.
She also expressed concern about the detrimental impact of her and other’s scenic vista with the tall turbine towers, blinking lights atop 410-foot towers at night, noise and safety concerns related to the fall of ice built up on turbine blades and the lack of escape routes from her property in case of wildfires.
Comments on the environmental study will continue to be accepted by EFSEC until 5 p.m. May 4 at P.O. Box 43172, Olympia, WA 98504-3172 or e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
EFSEC Manager Allen Fiksdal said the state energy council approved intervenor status for the Economic Development Group of Kittitas County, Kittitas County government and the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.
Previously approved for intervenor status was the Counsel for the Environment and the wind farm applicant Desert Claim Wind Power LLC.
Fiksdal said EFSEC will likely issue an order soon that will formally approve the intervenors and the proposed adjudication schedule, including hearings in Ellensburg.
A general public hearing, open to any citizen to speak, will be conducted the week of July 13 just prior to the Ellensburg adjudication hearings, and Desert Claim also proposed a general public hearing be conducted in the Seattle area the week of July 7.
Mike Johnston, Daily Record – http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2009/04/27/news/doc49f5efe6a4a9e763859756.txt