PENDLETON - Up to 104 new windmills could be dotting the landscape six miles west of Milton-Freewater soon, after the Umatilla Planning Commission granted permission Thursday for the land to be used as a wind energy generation facility with no opposition.
Don Bain, president of Aeropower Services a consultant for Eurus Oregon Wind Power Development LLC, said the site would generate up to 104 megawatts of energy.
The company wanted to move past the permit stage to construction as quickly as possible so they would still be eligible for federal grants, he said.
The property, approximately 13,375 acres, is described as an exclusive farm-use zone by the county Planning Department. The company also included a request to operate a rock crusher and concrete batch plant on the property during construction.
The project will remove 18 acres from farm use.
Construction was slated to begin in late 2002 and finish in 2003. The initial project will likely include 41 towers initially, with more added later said Steve Corey, attorney for the company.
The company wanted to take a different approach than other companies in the area, Bain said. Instead of using outside contractors, they were focusing on using local business and giving local contractors an opportunity to benefit. He pointed to a list of about 80 local businesses the company was using.
"We are fully trying to live up to our local responsibility," he said.
The company also is relying heavily on the advice and suggestions of the property owners involved in the project, he added.
While there are no mitigation funds planned at the moment, like the Helix Enhancement Launch Program funded by FLP Energy. But the company will fulfill its community responsibility but the specifics were still under discussion, Bain said. "There are a lot of possibilities for this right now, and nothing has been ruled out," he added.
Communities closest to the project, like MIlton-Freewater and Umapine, will receive priority, Bain said.
Commissioners raised concerns about water run off. Gary Reinhart said the project included more than 30 miles of new roads, which would mean more water run- off and possible erosion problems for neighbors.
"It is your responsibility in marketing yourself as green power to protect wildlife, water and land," he said.
"Where ever the water leaves the road we are going to try and make permanent protection," said Rod Anderson of Rod Anderson Construction, which is working on the project.
The company will work with the community and cooperate on solving concerns raised, he added.
He agreed to work with neighbors when Melinda Eden, who has a vineyard abutting the project to the northeast, raised concerns about spraying. She asked if adjacent landowners could be notified of what products would be sprayed and when. "The grapes are very unforgiving when it comes to sprays," she said.
Her husband, Ray Williams, suggested that instead of just being notified neighbors have input into how the spraying was done. Bain said he did not see a problem with trying to keep the neighbors in the loop.