Eastern Oregon commissioners OK wind farm near Milton-Freewater

PENDLETON -- County commissioners rejected a challenge from environmentalists and approved a 99-megawatt wind farm in northeast Oregon.

The project proposed by a subsidiary of the German company Windkraft Nord would have 33 turbines.

Umatilla County commissioners voted 2-1 this week to allow the Chopin Wind Project to go ahead, the East Oregonian reported.

The vote came after environmentalists appealed the Oct. 10 approval of the project by the county planning commission.

Leaders of the Blue Mountain Alliance said they were disappointed but not surprised they lost the appeal. They could take their case to the state land use board.

The environmentalists argued that more restrictive rules adopted by the commission in June should apply to the project, including a 2-mile setback to minimize the impact of turbine noise on homes.

However, County Attorney Doug Olsen said the rules did not apply to the project because the company submitted its application in February.

The proposed site is between Milton-Freewater and Athena.

Commissioner Larry Givens said he is not against a wind project but had questions. He called for more studies on noise, views, impact on wildlife, property values and cumulative impact.

"I think we need to take ... more time to get more solid evidence on what is being created by what we're building," he said.

Under an agreement between the planning commission and the company, the wind farm has to meet state noise standards and do noise studies in the first, third and fifth years of operation.

The company can't begin construction until it has approval for a power line to carry energy from the wind farm to the regional grid, said Planning Director Tamra Mabbott.

On Nov. 17, the planning commission denied the company's proposed move to connect to a PacifiCorp line.

Mabbott said the company has until Thrusday to appeal that decision, or it can propose another route.