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Behind closed doors: council ponders Desert Claim Wind Power Project October 23, 2009

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, today resumes deliberations on whether to approve the 95-turbine, $330 million Desert Claim Wind Power Project proposed for eight miles northwest of Ellensburg.

EFSEC’s seven members were scheduled to gather again behind closed doors in Olympia at 1 p.m. today, according to EFSEC Manager Allen Fiksdal.

The council first began deliberations at a Sept. 22 session and since have been communicating among themselves via e-mail and telephone conversations.

It was earlier speculated that EFSEC members may reach consensus this month on whether to recommend approval of the wind farm to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who makes the final decision.

The project, planned to be located north of Smithson Road, is detailed in “thousands” of pages of testimony, hearing transcripts, letters, e-mails, reports, legal briefs and other documents, according to Fiksdal, which EFSEC members are now studying.

Fiksdal said the project’s final environmental impact statement, with its supplemental report, likely will be approved a few weeks before the council meets in an open, public session to make their decision.

According to the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, EFSEC members act as judges in a quasi-judicial process in making a decision on the wind farm proposed by the international wind development firm of enXco Inc. USA.

According to the act, EFSEC may deliberate in private and is not subject to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

The recommendation, once finalized, then goes to Gov. Gregoire who makes the final decision within 60 days of receiving the recommendation.

Meeting at 905 Plum St. in Olympia today, EFSEC members are charged with reaching consensus on the project, and then directing EFSEC’s administrative law judge to write up a draft order to reflect that consensus.

Fiksdal said the document then will be circulated among the members to make sure it accurately reflects the council’s direction on the project.

It’s likely EFSEC will set a public meeting in Ellensburg to take final, formal action on the draft order that will reflect its recommendation to the governor.

Fiksdal said EFSEC can continue today’s meeting to another date, or members can continue to work on the recommendation by communicating outside the closed-door meeting.

The recommendation also can contain a minority report if some EFSEC members have objections to parts or all of the recommendation and draft order.

Fiksdal said enXco previously has signed agreements with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and with the Counsel for the Environment on procedures and mitigation measures to lessen the environmental and visual impact of the wind farm and to monitor its operations.

EFSEC conducted a public hearing and a short adjudicative hearing on the 5,200-acre project on July 13 in Ellensburg.

In an earlier report, an economic study commissioned by Desert Claim concluded the wind farm will create an estimated 282 jobs and generate more than $33 million in economic activity throughout the state in the year it is constructed.

It also estimates that it will create 36 jobs and $6.2 million in annual economic activity statewide after wind farm operations begin.

Documents on the project can be accessed online at the EFSEC Web site: http://www.efsec.wa.gov.

By MIKE JOHNSTON, Daily Record – http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2009/10/22/news/doc4ae0996c3482e210057310.txt

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One Response to “Behind closed doors: council ponders Desert Claim Wind Power Project”

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