EOUís wind power survey could help spark new Rural Services Institute

By Observer editorial June 15, 2011 09:32 pm
Eastern Oregon University has launched a significant project that could provide a springboard for bringing back its Rural Services Institute, which for years provided important services throughout the entire region served by the university. A year ago Professor Bill Grigsby’s Anthropology/Sociology 370 class conceived of the idea to conduct a public opinion survey on a subject of regional importance. The class chose the debate over the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, which has generated considerable controversy in Union County. It’s taken some time to put the wheels in motion and develop the survey, but recently the university mailed out questionnaires to 1,000 randomly selected county residents. The surveys are due back at the end of the month, at which time two students, Pablo Haro and Timothy Brown, will begin compiling the results.

EOU is hoping for a return of about 500 of the questionnaires, which would provide a solid statistical sample and would perhaps shed more light on how the public perceives the wind farm issue in Union County. But just as important, conducting a scientific survey provides a great learning tool for students and could provide the foundation for the reestablishment of the Rural Services Institute, which provided numerous services — with surveys being among them — to rural governments during its existence.

EOU President Bob Davies has said he believes the university can have a significant role in providing services throughout the region, and for that reason is pushing for the reestablishment of RSI. The survey is a first step in demonstrating the role such an agency could have in the area.

Grigsby and his students are to be commended for taking on such a significant project. While much work has gone into the preparation of the survey and getting it sent out, much more remains in tallying the results. Let’s hope the survey takers see a good response rate.

Not only will the survey help shed more light on the public’s attitudes about local wind power, but it can help set the wheels in motion for a new Regional Services Institute — a service EOU is fully capable of providing.