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Originally published Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 4:50 PM

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Grays Harbor PUD won't move forward with wind farm

The Grays Harbor PUD won't move forward with a proposed wind farm in Pacific County, citing permitting costs and other risks.

The Associated Press

ABERDEEN, Wash. —

The Grays Harbor PUD won't move forward with a proposed wind farm in Pacific County, citing permitting costs and other risks.

That leaves Energy Northwest and three PUDs in Clallam, Pacific and Mason counties to decide how to proceed with a plan to build 32 wind turbines on Radar Ridge near Naselle - without the project's largest investor.

The wind farm would be the largest in Western Washington and generate between 60 and 80 megawatts of power. Conservationists are concerned about the impacts of wind turbines to the marbled murrelet, a small seabird listed as threatened on the federal endangered species list.

Grays Harbor PUD commissioners questioned whether the project could get timely approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to meet lease and financing deadlines.

The commissioners on Monday decided not to commit $1.14 million to pay for more extensive environmental review, the Daily World reported. The PUD has already invested $845,000 in the permitting process.

"We need assurances on a quicker time schedule," Commissioner Truman Seely said.

To take advantage of $122 million in zero-interest financing from the Recovery Act, the utility said permitting must be completed by 2011.

"It has great wind, but it comes with a lot of baggage," PUD General Manager Rick Lovely told commissioners, who were also concerned about possible lawsuits from conservationists.

Jack Baker, Energy Northwest's vice president for energy and business services, said he was disappointed but "respect the rights of any organization to make such a cost-risk analysis."

Baker said without Grays Harbor, Energy Northwest will go back to the three other utilities and ask whether they could cover the costs of the $2 million environmental review.

He added that the project has done many studies that found no significant threat to the marbled murrelet, but decided it was better to complete a fuller environmental review.

"With Grays Harbor pulling out, that would make it very difficult for the other participants," said Matt Samuelson, assistant power supply manager for Mason County PUD No. 3 and the chairman of a committee overseeing the Radar Ridge project.

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Samuelson said the site on an old radar station offers the best opportunity for wind power generation in southwest Washington.

Baker said the wind farm has many benefits, including its close proximity to transmission lines and its good wind resources. It also fulfills the desire of several utilities to generate power in their own backyard, he added.

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Information from: The Daily World, http://www.thedailyworld.com

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