In a unanimous decision, the Washington State Supreme Court has backed Gov. Christine Gregoire's March 2012 approval of the Whistling Ridge Wind Energy Project. The court action denies a legal challenge to erecting 35 wind turbines on private industrial timberland in eastern Skamania County, Wash.
The Supreme Court dismissed assertions made by the Portland-based Friends of the Columbia Gorge and its ally Save Our Scenic Area. Whistling Ridge Energy LLC says the court found that the project permit application was not flawed as the petitioners had claimed and that the responsible state agency, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), had considered all of the wind farm's potential impacts.
"Any minor deficiencies in the application itself are to be expected and do not warrant reversal," the court wrote. "Invalidation of the completed review and recommendation would also defeat the purpose of the extended hearings and [EFSEC's] ongoing oversight of the project."
Jason Spadaro, SDS Lumber Co. and Whistling Ridge Energy LLC's president, has welcomed the decision and restated his company's commitment to the project.
"The siting council, the governor and now the Washington Supreme Court have all recognized that this project is outside of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area and that all impacts have been appropriately mitigated," says Spadaro. "We look forward to finally proceeding with the business of securing markets for our energy and creating local jobs and tax base." He adds that although the developer has not chosen a wind turbine supplier as of yet, the overall project will likely be between 50 and 70 MW.
Whistling Ridge first proposed the $150 million wind farm in spring 2008. The proposal originally called for 50 wind turbines but faced opposition from environmental groups and nearby landowners. In an attempt to rectify these concerns, Gov. Gregoire modified the proposal to allow for 35 wind turbines to be built on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge.