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Wash Supreme Court approves Kittitas Co wind farm

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Gov. Chris Gregoire had authority to approve a Kittitas County wind farm over the objections of local officials, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday

Gov. Chris Gregoire had authority to approve a Kittitas County wind farm over the objections of local officials, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court’s unanimous decision was sure to aggravate county officials and residents who have opposed the planned wind farm, citing the potential for negative effects on views in the area.

The project, from developers Horizon Wind Energy of Houston, would be along U.S. 97 northwest of Ellensburg. Turbines would sit on ridge tops in the blustery Kittitas Valley, on private and state land.

Project officials have said they expect to spend at least $150 million on the wind farm, and supporters say it could provide enough electricity to supply about 30,000 homes.

Before getting Gregoire’s approval, the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project was reduced from about 120 turbines to about 65, and developers agreed to keep turbines farther from homes and cabins.

But the county commission appealed Gregoire’s ruling, arguing that the state abused its authority in this case, and shouldn’t be allowed to pre-empt county land use laws for wind power projects. The court disagreed, upholding Gregoire’s final decision.

Commissioners also argued that the state’s environmental analysis was flawed because it did not properly consider worries over blocked views and long shadows from the turbines.

Acknowledging the imposing form of the 400-foot wind towers, the court quoted from the literary classic “Don Quixote De La Mancha”: “They are giants: and, if thou art afraid, get thee aside and pray, whilst I engage with them in fierce and unequal combat.'”

But the justices ruled that the project’s environmental impact study took enough steps to account for the visual effects of the wind farm.

Kittitas County already is home to Puget Sound Energy’s Wild Horse wind farm, and local officials recently approved an expansion of that project. The county also has approved another wind project from Chicago-based Invenergy Wind North America.

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