Washington Supreme Court: Columbia Gorge Wind Farm Can Be Built

Aug 30, 2013

The Washington Supreme Court Thursday decided that the Northwest’s first wind farm in a forested, mountainous area can move forward. Environmental groups had challenged its proximity to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area and it's effect on wildlife habitat.

A series of windmills in the Walla Walla Valley in southeastern Washington.
Credit Thad Westhusing

The court's unanimous decision removes a legal barrier for the Whistling Ridge Energy Project. In its decision the court said it could not yet rule on the project’s plans to protect wildlife. Nathan Baker is the staff attorney for the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge. The advocacy group had challenged how the wind farm was sited. Baker said the group would continue to ask for more protection for spotted owls and migratory birds near the site.

Baker: “We will be weighing in when the applicant proposes its actual mitigation measures for wildlife and its proposal for forest practices, which is clear cutting the area and managing timber near the turbines.”

Former Gov. Chris Chris Gregoire approved the project in southeast Washington more than a year ago. It was scaled back from 50 turbines to 35.

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