SDS Lumber Co.'s request to convert forest land on Bald Mountain into non-forest land in order to operate seven portable 5.3-megawatt power generators has run into opposition.
By the June 7 deadline, four separate appeals had been filed with Klickitat County, raising objections to the SDS proposal.
The power generators, proposed to be placed on a seven-acre site on the north side of Bald Mountain, would tap into a natural-gas line and would be fueled by that source. Together, the units would produce about 35 megawatts of electricity.
The Klickitat County Planning Department recently issued a "mitigated determination of non-significance" regarding the power-generation project.
The appeals came from nearby property owners Don and Kristie Gensler; by landowners Scott Lozier, Michele Menard, and Marc Papageorges; by the Snowden Community Council; and by the Central Cascades Alliance and Columbia Riverkeeper.
"The lead agency has failed to adequately assess, consider, and address the following significant environmental impacts: 1) air emissions, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and greenhouse gases; 2) adverse health hazards associated with noise levels generated by continuous operation of generators; 3) incompatibility and adverse impacts on surrounding agricultural activities; and 4) adverse impacts to the aesthetics of surrounding rural areas," read a portion of the appeal from the Genslers.
In an interview before the appeals were filed, SDS President Jason Spadaro said Sept. 1 is the target date to begin generating power.
"We're still moving forward to develop the site," Spadaro said.
Spadaro pointed out that the site chosen was the best one available.
"There was a considerable amount of effort in choosing a site," he explained. "It's outside the Scenic Area, it's located on a gas pipeline, and it has no neighbors. It's a less controversial site."
Three property owners in the area pointed out that they had not been notified about the project.
"We are amazed that SDS and the Klickitat County Planning Committee could allow these permits to proceed without notifying us or other closely associated land owners," read part of the appeal from landowners Lozier, Menard, and Papageorges. "We found out about this from a neighbor just two days before the deadline for public comment. We were listed as `unknown owners.'"
Spadaro explained that no decision had yet been made as to where the electricity generated by the plant might be marketed.
"We're exploring contracts with partners who might purchase the power," he said. "It depends on the market. Whether the power will be sold locally or elsewhere is not known yet."
Spadaro added that the generators would be inside a fenced area, and would be housed in sound-controlled containers.
"They are low-emission units," he pointed out.
Spadaro said the generation project helps strengthen the SDS mill in Bingen through diversifying its revenue sources. The project also could serve to reduce the price of electricity for consumers by offsetting the Bonneville Power Administration's increasing power costs.
"We're all looking at as much as a 200 percent rate increase," Spadaro explained. "The PUD will pass it on this fall due to the BPA rate increase. This could help offset that."
Chris Connolly, president of the Snowden Community Council, said the council voted unanimously to file an appeal "because members of our community are affected."
"This project doesn't fall under the governor's emergency proclamation because it's for more than a year," Connolly said. "Our main concerns are air quality and technical issues with the application. Their emissions information is incorrect, because the application is based on one unit, not seven."
Spadaro said people need to realize the serious power shortage that is looming.
"People don't understand the emergency we're in. Without new assets, we're looking at inevitable blackouts," he explained.