Not in area’s best interest

By Dennis Wilkinson March 26, 2010 02:19 pm

It has started.

The businesses in Union County that stand to gain financially from the Antelope wind project in my view will not act or behave necessarily in the best interest of Union County citizens since it is all about money.

The wind factory developer will be soliciting businesses while requesting their support and endorsement of the project. Endorsements, therefore, will come from businesses that are in a position or are receiving revenue from the project.

It has already started from some local businesses that have a lot to gain. It’s interesting to observe what promises and greed will do while giving no consideration as to the long-term negative impacts to our county or the families that live here.

The wind factory construction economic quick-fix will negatively impact thousands of families and their livelihoods while our beautiful valley is being destroyed. Just remember these businesses when it comes time to patronize them in the years to come.

As the project gets closer to approval you most likely will see the wind factory developer move to gain public approval through the following:

1. Large advertising campaigns utilizing news media of radio, cable TV and community newspapers, while The Observer offers the front page for free.

2. Financial offers of support to non-profit organizations, arts and craft associations, sheriff and state police associations, public employee associations, PTAs and others.

3. Financial offers and pet projects to public institutions such as schools and libraries, or programs under their direction.

Offers to tentative vendor/service contractors from local building, remodeling and new construction contractors along with contacts for goods, services and/or products from obvious businesses as concrete suppliers, rock suppliers, lumber yards and many others in the community that they are planning entice at the open house March 30.

The tentative contracts offered may never be consummated or executed as promised but are provided for no other reason except to keep the business from resisting the project. These tactics are similar to the promises and contracts for surrounding landowners who will never have a wind tower on their property. It would be honorable if these people would come forward and expose the issue since this has been the tactic of wind farm developers across the country. If these landowners knew what was offered their neighbor, they would be outraged.

The wind factory developer has been promoting the wondrous aspects of the Antelope project as to saving family farms, promising jobs and claiming large amounts of revenue to the county. But in reality few locals will ever benefit since most of the temporary jobs during construction will be given to imported employees with experience in wind factory construction. I believe that in the long term jobs will be lost due to loss of tourism, new home construction and business failure from a declining population that does not want to live next to a wind factory. There are almost no positive aspects to this project. There are already people considering leaving the area if this project moves ahead.

The recent shutdown at the Elkhorn Wind Farm due to a major equipment failure has shown us just how unreliable wind power is at the same time creating a grave safety hazard since the wind tower warning lights have been out for days.  This has put aircraft in the area in serious danger.

In the past two years millions of taxpayer dollars have been given to Horizon Wind at the Elkhorn project. In 2008 and 2009 Union County gave away $331,000 each year as a tax break while the federal government gave them $5.5 million in production tax credits, while Idaho Power paid them in 2009 more than $14 million for the power they produced and not one kilowatt went to Union County.

If the Antelope Ridge project is allowed to be built, they could receive a property tax credit of $5 million annually from Union County. Our commissioners are negotiating a tax program with Horizon while under the cover of an Oregon Revised Statute that does not allow for them to reveal what is in the negotiated agreement. All we can hope is that it will provide no giveaways and provides major protection for the residents.

The people of La Grande and across the valley need to be aware as to the effect this wind factory is going to have on their view, businesses and impact to this valley. Step out your door and take a look at the back side of Craig Mountain and Ladd Canyon.  If you can see these landmarks, your future view may be towering turbines and blinking red lights unless you help stop this project.

The Friends of the Grande Ronde Valley requested to have a place at the table on March 30 at the Horizon open house but were denied. Contact the Friends at 541-568-4585 if you plan to attend so they can provide you with the other side of the issue or go to the website

Dennis Wilkinson is a Cove resident.