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Bird Group threatens opposition again

Opposition is growing once again to plans for a wind farm in Columbia Gorge in the Pacific Northwest despite a change in the developer. Enron Wind, part of the giant US energy company Enron Corp, bought the assets of the proposed 115 MW wind plant from Kenetech Windpower after it sought bankruptcy in federal court (Windpower Monthly, December 1997). News that the rights to develop the project are now in the hands of a subsidiary of Texas-based Enron Corp has been disseminated by the local Columbia Gorge Audubon Society, a nationwide group that seeks to protect birds and their habitat.

The issue of what the impact of the wind farm might be on the area's birds had previously haunted the project. Audubon, along with representatives of local Native Americans, the Yakama tribe, had appealed against the project's conditional use permit, which it received in June 1995 from Klickitat County. But the appeal process was halted when Kenetech was plunged into bankruptcy almost two years ago, in May 1996.

The Audubon Society chapter opposes the project because of what it says is a potential impact on raptors such as the endangered peregrine falcon and the bald eagle. And if Enron Windpower pursues the development of the wind plant, Audubon will pursue the appeal again, says its conservation chair Dennis White. Most of Enron's power generation is from fossil fuels, and development of wind power facilities is an attempt to "green up" its portfolio, White told The Chronicle newspaper, based in nearby Wasco County.

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