Although the opponents have yet to mount a successful campaign to stop either the Zilkha project (Windpower Monthly, June 2002) or another one proposed by EnXco for the same area, it has succeeded in causing Zilkha to push its completion date to 2004. The delay forced upon Zilkha could kill the project if Congress fails to extend wind's federal production tax credit beyond its current December 31, 2003 sunset date.
Saying that "whirling aliens will dominate the landscape," opponents, many of whom are absentee landowners from Seattle with second homes on large parcels of view property, primarily object to the aesthetics of placing turbines along the area's ridgetops. Kittitas County is located at the entrance to Snoqualmie Pass in a windy climactic transition zone between the two extremes of the Cascade Mountains to the west and the dry Columbia River basin plateau to the east. With five sets of nearby transmission lines to take power to the dense population centres of Puget Sound, the area is ripe for wind development, says Zilkha's Chris Taylor.
The area is also one of pristine beauty, says local attorney Steve Lathrop, and he wants it protected. He says the local planning commission should put a halt to wind development until land for that use is identified in the county plan.
According to Lathrop, wind farms should be designated major industrial development and limited to areas identified as industrial land, which would effectively force projects off high wind areas and into the Kittitas Valley. To do that would require a reversal of an existing county ordinance, passed by the commission last year, which made large wind farm projects a conditional land use if on agricultural or forest lands.
Zilkha has spent the last year finishing its environmental and economic studies before it applies to the county for a conditional use permit, an investment that could be lost if the ordinance is reversed. "Wind power developers were given a green light last year and it would be unfair to landowners and to wind developers who have moved forward based on existing laws," Taylor says.