Since the creation of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in 1986, few projects have threatened Gorge resources like the controversial Whistling Ridge Energy Project.
Status update: 2018 – Project on hold; BPA decision in litigation
In 2012, the project applicant, SDS Lumber Company, announced that the proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project was on hold and "unlikely to move forward." Since then, SDS has not taken any steps to move forward with the project.
In 2015, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) decided to allow the project to be connected to BPA’s energy grid and to build a new federal substation for the project. Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area appealed BPA's decision to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals alleging that BPA failed to adequately review the project's environmental impacts. The Ninth Circuit heard oral argument on March 8, 2018. A decision from the Ninth Circuit is expected this spring or summer.
In 2002, SDS Lumber Company requested from BPA a 70-MW generation interconnection to BPA's energy grid for a new wind energy project. In 2007, SDS Lumber Company proposed to build up to 85 wind turbines, each up to 426 feet tall, on prominent ridgelines near the town of White Salmon. In 2009, the Washington Department of Natural Resources rejected SDS's request to build wind turbines on public land. In 2012, a scaled-down version of the project (up to 35 turbines, each up to 430 feet tall) was approved by former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.
Proposed along the boundary of the National Scenic Area and within an area designated for the protection of the endangered Northern spotted owl, the Whistling Ridge Project would mar world-class scenery and harm endangered species habitat, with little to no benefit to the state of Washington’s citizens.
Icons of the Pacific Northwest, like the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains, should be off-limits to large-scale energy development. We can combat climate change without having to sacrifice our most special places and our core values.
Friends Opposes the Whistling Ridge Energy Project Because:
It would harm Columbia Gorge scenic resourcesThe project site is located along the boundary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in the heart of the Gorge. The immense turbines would loom over the Gorge horizon and would be visible for many miles in every direction. The affected scenic landscape within the Cascade Mountain Range is visited by tourists from all over the world for its unique qualities, including dramatic mountain vistas, steep cliffs, pastoral lands, and the Columbia River.
It threatens protected wildlifeThe project would also harm wildlife by permanently removing hundreds of acres of forested habitat, including land within a designated Northern Spotted Owl Special Emphasis Area. Furthermore, the site has never been surveyed for birds during key migratory periods, in direct violation of state rules for siting energy projects.
It would harm Gorge communitiesBy diminishing Gorge scenic resources, the Whistling Ridge Energy Project would harm the local tourism economy and negatively affect property values in surrounding communities. It would also cause substantial traffic and road damage along local roads during construction.
The project is not neededThe average power capacity of the Whistling Ridge Energy Project would be 25 megawatts or less, and the total capacity would be 75 megawatts or less. This is a drop in the energy bucket compared to the more than 17,000 megawatts of current wind power capacity (including all built, approved, and proposed projects) in Washington and Oregon. BPA has concluded that wind power capacity “is being developed in the Northwest far in advance of regional power demand.” Because of this surplus, most Northwest wind energy is currently being distributed to California. The Whistling Ridge project is simply not needed.
The public overwhelmingly opposes the projectEighty-six percent of public comments have opposed or expressed concerns about the Whistling Ridge Energy Project. Concerns have been raised by several public resource management agencies, tourism groups, and environmental organizations, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the Washington Counsel for the Environment, the Skamania County Agri-Tourism Association, Sustainable Travel International, Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway, Seattle Audubon Society, Vancouver Audubon Society, Kittitas Audubon Society, Columbia Gorge Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, Conservation Northwest, and the Gifford Pinchot Task Force.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge supports responsible development of renewable energy sources, but the Whistling Ridge proposal is not responsible. It is not critical to our energy needs and not worth sacrificing the unique scenic beauty and wildlife of the Columbia River Gorge.
- Visual simulation of the Whistling Ridge proposal
- SDS Lumber Company’s project application and environmental impact statement
- Friends' Opening Brief – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Friends' Reply Brief – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Whistling Ridge faces new legal challenge, Columbian, Sept. 18, 2015
- Another Voice: Whistling Ridge Plan is Unneeded Nonstarter, Hood River News, Sept. 11, 2013
- Washington Supreme Court hears wind farm case, EarthFix, June 27, 2013
- Gorge wind-farm project headed for high court, Seattle Times, May 2, 2013
- Whistling Ridge Wind Farm Proposal Process Moves To Wash. Supreme Court, Hood River News, Nov. 27, 2012
- Whistling Ridge decision contested, Hood River News, Apr. 7, 2012
- Gov. Chris Gregoire approves Whistling Ridge wind farm outside Columbia River Gorge in Washington, but project on hold, Oregonian, March 6, 2012
Friends’ conservation work is driven by members, volunteers, and activists. There are many ways to join our community of Gorge enthusiasts. Here are some ways to get started:
Watch Video About the Whistling Ridge Energy Project
See the threat the Whistling Ridge Energy Project poses to the Gorge's natural and scenic resources.Watch Video
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