Wind farm opponents gather

By Joshua Dillen/Baker City Herald July 10, 2013 09:31 am

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald file photo The Elkhorn Valley wind farm is the largest wind development in the area, with 61 turbines near North Powder. It opened in 2007.
S. John Collins/Baker City Herald file photo The Elkhorn Valley wind farm is the largest wind development in the area, with 61 turbines near North Powder. It opened in 2007.

By Joshua Dillen

Baker City Herald

Local opponents to building more wind farms in Baker County have an ally in the vice chairman of the county planning commission, although he won’t be voting on the matter.

“You may have to face the issue of looking at windmills for the next 25 to 50 years,” vice chairman Bill Harvey said Tuesday night during an open meeting at the Sunridge Inn.

Fifteen people attended the meeting, which was arranged by Tom Van Diepen of Baker City.

The purpose of the gathering was to rally support against two proposed wind farms that developers would like to build in southeastern Baker County.

Harvey spoke for more than an hour about why he believes these wind farms, which would include a total of 24 to 30 turbines, would be bad for Baker County and its livelihood.

There is one wind farm in Baker County now, consisting of six turbines on ridge north of Huntington.

The largest wind farm in the area is the Elkhorn Valley project, with 61 turbines near North Powder.

He presented information and answered questions from concerned citizens.

Harvey wants as many people as possible to attend the planning commission’s July 16 meeting to urge the commission to vote against the developments. 

That meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St.

Harvey said he has recused himself from voting on the matter at the planning commission and that he will argue against the wind farms as a citizen, not a commissioner.

Loss of sage grouse habitat, the lack of local jobs associated with the project, diminished tourism and more expensive electricity are some of the issues Harvey said the wind farms will bring to Baker County.

“If the federal government lists the sage grouse as an endangered species,” Harvey said, “you don’t even know what kind of can of worms that opens up.”

Harvey also pointed out that several countries across the globe no longer use wind power because of the costs and environmental problems the industry can bring to their nations.

Billie McClure, a local resident opposed to the developments, had a strong opinion about them.

“They’re never efficient. It’s totally economically stupid nationwide. It’s not just in this county,” McClure said.

Van Diepen encourages anyone who opposes the proposed wind farms to attend the meeting or present a written argument to the commission at the July 16 meeting.

“Contact your friends and family; call them up or email them to come in,” he said.

For more information about the meeting contact the planning department at 541-523-8219.