Stop the Whistling Ridge Energy Project
Friends of the Columbia Gorge supports renewable energy, but only when it is proposed in a responsible manner and sited to ensure protection of important natural and scenic resources. The proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project is neither and should be denied.
Since the creation of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in 1986, few projects have threatened Gorge resources like the controversial Whistling Ridge Energy Project. Proposed along the boundary of the National Scenic Area and within an area designated for the protection of the endangered Northern spotted owl, the Whistling Ridge Project would mar world-class scenery and harm endangered species habitat, with little to no benefit to the citizens of Washington State.
Icons of the Northwest, like the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains, should be off-limits to large-scale energy development. We can combat global warming without having to sacrifice our most special places and our core values. Stop the Whistling Ridge Energy Project.
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In 2009, SDS Lumber Company filed an application with the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to build up to 50 wind turbines, each up to 426 feet tall, on prominent ridgelines near the town of White Salmon.
Scenic Impacts: The project site is located along the boundary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The immense turbines would loom over the Gorge horizon and would be visible for many miles in every direction. The affected scenic landscape within the Cascade Mountain Range is visited by tourists from all over the world for its unique qualities, including dramatic mountain vistas, steep cliffs, pastoral lands, and the Columbia River.
Wildlife Impacts: The project would also harm wildlife by permanently removing hundreds of acres of forested habitat, including land within a designated Northern Spotted Owl Special Emphasis Area. Furthermore, the site has never been surveyed for birds during key migratory periods, in direct violation of state rules for siting energy projects.
Community Impacts: The project would harm the tourism economy in the Gorge, cause substantial traffic and road damage along local roads during construction, and harm property values in surrounding communities.
The project is not needed: The average power capacity of the Whistling Ridge project would be 25 megawatts or less, and the total capacity would be 75 megawatts or less. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 17,000 megawatts of current wind power capacity (including all built, approved, and proposed projects) in Washington and Oregon. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has recently concluded that wind power capacity “is being developed in the Northwest far in advance of regional power demand.” Because of this surplus, most Northwest wind energy is currently being distributed to California.
The public overwhelmingly opposes the project: 86% of public comments have opposed or expressed concerns about the Whistling Ridge Energy Project. Concerns have been raised by several public resource management agencies, tourism groups, and environmental organizations, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the Washington Counsel for the Environment, the Skamania County Agri-Tourism Association, Sustainable Travel International, Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway, Seattle Audubon Society, Vancouver Audubon Society, Kittitas Audubon Society, Columbia Gorge Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, Conservation Northwest, and the Gifford Pinchot Task Force.
What is the current status of the project? Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has approved the Whistling Ridge project, but with changes to the project to reduce some of its scenic impacts. The Governor's decision does not address many of the problems with the project, including its wildlife impacts, inconsistency with the local land use rules, and the failure to mitigate the scenic impacts of the approved turbines. Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area have appealed the Governor's decision to the Washington Supreme Court. Oral arguments took place on June 27, 2013.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge supports responsible development of renewable energy sources, but the Whistling Ridge proposal is not responsible. It is not critical to our energy needs and not worth sacrificing the unique scenic beauty and wildlife of the Columbia River Gorge.
A visual simulation of the proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project as approved by Governor Gregoire, viewed from I-84, east of Hood River
A visual simulation of the proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project as approved by Governor Gregoire, viewed from the City of White Salmon
Now is your chance to sign the petition asking for this project to be denied because of the harm it would cause to the natural and scenic resources of the Gorge.
Click here for SDS's project application and environmental impact statement.
Click here to download Friends' testimony to the Washington Legislature regarding SB 6396 and HB 2654.
"Another Voice: Whistling Ridge Plan is Unneeded Nonstarter," Hood River News, Sep. 11, 2013
"State Supreme Court rules in favor of wind farm," Vancouver Columbian, Aug. 29, 2013
"Washington Supreme Court hears wind farm case," EarthFix, June 27, 2013
"Gorge wind-farm project headed for high court," Seattle Times, May 2, 2013
"Whistling Ridge Wind Farm Proposal Process Moves To Wash. Supreme Court," Hood River News, Nov. 27, 2012
"Whistling Ridge decision contested," Hood River News, Apr. 7, 2012
"Northwest view: Wind energy project near Gorge should be denied," Vancouver Columbian, Mar. 11, 2012
"Governor approves Skamania County wind farm," Vancouver Columbian, Mar. 5, 2012
"Spotted owl advocates pipe up over Whistling Ridge wind farm proposal,"
Vancouver Columbian, Oct. 6, 2011