The developer of a wind farm in a timbered canyon in Eastern Oregon has struck an agreement with a state wildlife agency on a plan to offset the environmental impact of its 164 turbines and power lines.
The agreement, announced Monday, would require the company to lease up to 1,200 acres from private land-owners and restrict grazing and other activities around the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm.
The agreement (pdf) between the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and EDP Renewables, developers of the wind farm, marks a turnaround since last March, when the same agency came out against the controversial project because the company behind it lacked a plan (pdf) to sufficiently avoid impacts on habitat for deer and other big game and the increased mortality of bald eagle, bats and other flying wildlife.
The agreement to a mitigation plan came after Gov. John Kitzhaber convened a mediation process.
In a statement released by the state of Oregon, both the company’s head and the agency’s director are quoted praising the agreement as good for both the environment and efforts to meet Oregon’s renewable energy and economic goals.
But a local biologist said the latest plan is clearly a bad deal for wildlife.
“The environmental impact will be negative. There’s just no question about that,” said Karen Antell, a biology professor at Eastern Oregon University. “It feels to me like the scientific process, which had been moving along, now has been overridden by a political agenda.”
Antell said it’s not possible to make up for the negative impact that 164 turbines would have on wildlife and habitat. That’s because the timbered canyon serves as a corridor to move between two valleys in an otherwise rugged, mountainous area of Eastern Oregon.
Antell said she is not directly involved in the debate over the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm project, but has studied it through her work at the university. As the vice president of the Blue Mountains Conservancy, she submitted testimony (pdf) in January raising concerns that construction of wind turbines and power lines would threaten a rare and endangered plant species called Oregon semaphore grass.
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