Enviros file suit to block Ore. wind project

Source: E&E • Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012

Two environmental groups are challenging a $300 million proposal to build a wind project on the north end of Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon.

The Oregon Natural Desert Association and Portland Audubon have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland to stop the project, arguing for a different development area. The association mapped out other areas in Oregon where wind development could occur without social and environmental consequences to Steens Mountain, association Executive Director Brent Fenty said.

“Of all the places in Oregon’s high desert, this is perhaps the worst place for wind development,” he said.

Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon’s conservation director, said the project puts his group in a new and uncomfortable role. Although the group supports renewable energy development, he said this project was “the antithesis.”

“If you can go into Steens Mountain, what is next? Mount Hood? Crater Lake?” he asked.

The Echanis Wind Project would include 40 to 60 wind turbines on 10,000 acres of private ranch land and would generate 104 megawatts of electricity, which could power about 30,000 homes. It is one of two projects proposed on or near the mountain.

Transmission lines for the turbines would extend north and eventually connect to an existing transmission line owned by Harney Electric Cooperative. The power would then be sold to Southern California Edison because of an agreement. The transmission lines, which will extend across 44 miles of federal land, were approved in December 2011 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (Richard Cockle, Portland Oregonian, May 2). — JE