Wind farm won't have to curb noise

PENDLETON -- An Eastern Oregon wind farm won't have to curb its noise after a county commission decided not to enforce state noise requirements.

The county commission, called the Morrow County Court, voted 2-1 that although noise from the Willow Creek wind project exceeds state standards at a few homes, the violations did not warrant enforcement action.

"There might be some violations," said Commissioner Ken Grieb, "but we don't think they're significant enough to take action."

Morrow County granted the 48-turbine Willow Creek project a permit in 2005. The East Oregonian reported that outraged neighbors began to complain about the noise from the project soon after.

"I'm flabbergasted," said Jim McCandlish, a lawyer for three of the neighbors, after the vote. "The county court has an obligation to protect the health and welfare of its citizens."

McCandlish said his clients' constitutional right to due process was being denied, and said the neighbors intend to appeal the decision to Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality wrote and used to enforce the state's industrial noise control regulations. The laws still are on the books, but the department terminated its noise control program in 1991 because of budget cuts, leaving enforcement up to local agencies.

Morrow County adopted the state's noise control rules and asks wind projects to comply as part of the site certification process.

Project developer Invenergy acknowledges the project violates noise standards, but insists the violations are minimal and infrequent.