Editorial: Wind project challenge doesn’t hold up


In a country where there’s a national push to reduce American dependence of fossil fuels, you’d think folks would jump at the chance to erect power-generating windmills in Harney County. You’d be wrong.

Thus Columbia Energy Partners, a Vancouver, Wash.-based outfit that proposed as many as four wind farms near the Steens Mountain Wilderness area, has been dogged at every turn, chiefly by the Audubon Society of Portland and the Oregon Natural Desert Association. The two groups are at it again, and the logic of their latest move defies reason.

Columbia Energy seeks to put up two wind projects in the Steens Mountain area about 200 miles southeast of Bend. There’s been no request for permits on one, the Riddle Mountain Wind Project.

The situation is different for the Echanis project, which lies on private land bordered on three sides by the wilderness area. The Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for such things, in 2011 granted Columbia a permit to put up a power transmission line from the proposed project to a line outside the protection area.

Then, last April, ONDA and the Portland Audubon Society sued BLM. That suit is still pending.

Which brings us to today. On March 8, ONDA and Audubon joined forces again, this time to ask BLM to withdraw its Echanis permit because — get this — it’s likely the project won’t ever be built.

Let’s see if we have that straight. The project has been in the works since at least 2007. It has the support of the county in which it lies and the federal agency whose permission is needed to make it possible. It has been delayed by lawsuits brought by ONDA and Audubon. Because it’s been delayed, it might not be built and therefore permits to do so should be revoked.

The two groups apparently believe that if they can tie up something in court long enough, whether they win or not, that is a valid reason for killing the thing outright. It’s a logic we simply do not buy.