At a time when the economy in Harney County could use the boost that it would receive from alternative energy production, the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) has made it known that they will fight the majority of the wind power sites proposed in Harney County, especially those in the Steens Mountain area.
Brent Fenty, executive director of ONDA, presented a PowerPoint presentation to the Harney County Court last week summarizing where ONDA stands on each wind power project. The report titled “Oregon’s High Desert and Wind Energy: Opportunities and Strategies for Responsible Development,” was released for public viewing on Monday, May 11.
The report created by ONDA and five other conservation groups, uses Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis to outline where and how these groups believe large-scale wind power generation could be approached in Oregon’s high desert while still conserving sensitive wildlife habitats and important natural landscapes.
The report was created through the mapping and analysis of the areas identified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory as having the best wind power potential. ONDA then compared this data with what they consider to be sensitive natural resources such as wilderness study areas, sage grouse leks and sensitive bat species. The report includes a narrative outlining the nature of the potential conflicts, ranking from high to low, with wind energy development.
According to Fenty, “ONDA supports renewable energy development and believes that such development can help reduce our fossil fuel consumption and help address climate change while creating sustainable economies for rural communities throughout Eastern Oregon. There is an urgent need to analyze where wind power potential is the highest and wildlife and social conflicts are the lowest. Such an analysis will ensure that projects can be developed without degradation of desert wildlands and damage to sensitive wildlife populations.”
After presenting the report at the county court meeting last week, Fenty was met with frustration from the court. Harney County Judge Steve Grasty told Fenty, “If you want credibility in this area, you have to support something, some day.” Grasty remarked that the report contained no social or economic analysis, and took no consideration into private land.
Commissioner Dan Nichols commented, “You’re fouling your own nest, and all of ours with it.”
In a press release issued May 11, Fenty said, “This report was designed to be used by multiple audiences. Local, state, and federal regulators will be able use the report to work with developers to guide how and where wind power facilities are permitted. And conservation groups and local citizens will be able use the report to prioritize areas most important for protection while also recognizing areas where environmental conflicts are least significant.”
In addition to ONDA, the report is endorsed by Audubon Society of Portland, Defenders of Wildlife, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Oregon Chapter Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians.
The full report is available at:
By Debbie Raney, Burns Times-Herald – http://burnstimesherald.info/2009/05/13/onda-opposes-wind-power-sites/