Wind Project Near Columbia Gorge Scenic Area Awaits Decision

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The future of a hotly contested Washington wind project just outside the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area hinges on the decision of state regulators, now that adjudicative hearings have drawn to a close.

Whistling Ridge, planned for a slice of timber company property near the town of White Salmon, would be one of Washington's first wind projects on industrial timber land--and one of its smallest, at up to 75 MW of generating capacity.

But its size, or the fact that its site is an industrial forest, isn't the problem--it's the location that has a Portland-based conservation group stirred up, because some of the project's turbines would be seen from various points within the only federally recognized National Scenic Area in the country.

Stoel Rives partner Tim McMahan discussed this issue in the February 7, 2011 issue of Clearing Up. Tim described how Skamania County's land use plan and zoning codes will play a big role in the resolution of this issue. Tim explained that "if a county wants to develop a further setback in its zoning code, it can do that, but in Skamania County [where the wind farm would be built], the zoning code has a provision stating that in no way, will National Scenic Area provisions apply outside the National Scenic Area."

McMahan added that Skamania County's land use management plan must be applied during SEPA and NEPA reviews of the project. "To apply SEPA, you have to take into account what the county code says," he said. And here, the County code explicitly prohibits extending Scenic Area requirements to projects outside of the boundary.

Click here to read the entire article published in the February 7, 2011 edition of Clearing Up.

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