Whistling Ridge Energy Project

The poorly sited wind energy project would harm important natural and scenic resources

Whistling Ridge Energy Project
A visual simulation of the Whistling Ridge Energy Project as approved by former Washington Governor Gregoire, viewed from east of Hood River. (Simulation by GeoDataScape. Detail by Karen Chandler.)

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

In 2012, state officials reduced the proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project to no more than 35 wind turbines (down from the original proposal of 85 turbines). At that point, the project applicant, SDS Lumber Company, announced that the project was on hold and "unlikely to move forward." Since then, SDS has not taken any steps to move forward with the project.

Background

In 2002, SDS Lumber Company requested from the Bonneville Power Administration (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 resources.

The 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 wildlife.

The 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 and federal rules for siting energy projects.
 

It would harm Gorge communities.

By 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 needed.

The 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 project.

Eighty-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.
 

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Watch Video About the Whistling Ridge Energy Project

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.

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Looking for more information about this issue? Contact Friends Senior Staff Attorney Nathan Baker.

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