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A Primer On The `Energy Overlay Zone' Deis

Draft EIS released to the public

It's finally out. Last week, the massive "Klickitat County Energy Overlay Draft Environmental Impact Statement" -- two years in the making -- was released to the public.

In general, the stated purpose of the Energy Overlay Zone is to "amend development regulations and comprehensive plan policies with the county to encourage the optimal siting of energy projects."

The county Economic Development Department has set "2003" as the target "implementation date" for the Energy Overlay Zone.

In the introduction, written by Curt Dreyer, director of the Klickitat County Planning Department, the concept behind the study is laid out: "Klickitat County has certain features that make it attractive to energy developers," read an excerpt. "These include a predictable wind regime, solar energy resources, an extensive electric transmission grid, a high-capacity natural gas pipeline, and bio-mass resources. This has resulted in developer interest in siting energy projects."

The proposed Energy Overlay Zone would cover more than half of the county's land area, including the entire southern half of the county and all of the eastern one-third of the county. The cities of White Salmon, Bingen, Goldendale, and Dallesport would be included under the EOZ umbrella.

In the "Fact Sheet" section of the document, details of why the Energy Overlay Zone is being considered are stated: "Klickitat County is considering amendments to its comprehensive plan and development regulations to facilitate energy development in optimal locations within the county ... to accomplish this objective, the county has proposed development of an energy overlay which would be superimposed over existing comprehensive plan map and zoning map designations."

The document lists seven potential sites for new energy plants within Klickitat County. Under the heading "Candidate target areas identified for siting of prospective power generation" specific spots are listed. The locations are as follows:

The former Klickitat mill;

Dallesport area;

East county area including Mercer Ranch;

Goldendale area;

Swale Creek/Centerville area;

Rattlesnake Creek area;

Roosevelt area.

Five key policies the document lists as related to creation of the EOZ are as follows:

1) Energy development should be compatible with surrounding land uses;

2) Energy development should be designed and sited with informed consideration of environmental impacts;

3) Energy development that utilizes wind, gas-fired generation, bio-mass, and solar are preferred and shall be encouraged. These technologies, if sensitively sited, designed, and mitigated can be sited without significant, adverse environmental impacts;

4) Areas particularly suitable for energy development are identified in an "energy overlay" which permits preferred energy development outright;

5) Energy development in areas not included in the EOZ shall be subject to review through a conditional use process.

Virtually all energy types were considered in the EOZ study, with nuclear power being the sole exception. Nuclear was excluded from consideration, while hydroelectric facilities, ethanol plants, and diesel generators were all considered "unlikely" to be developed. Ethanol was also seen as "not workable" in Klickitat County.

With competition for water rights an issue, the document noted the "prospective general options" for securing a water source for future power generation plants. Those options included: purchasing water from an existing purveyor; obtaining a new water right for the facility; or transferring an existing water right to the facility.

Toward the end of the document, "Appendix E, Draft Development Regulation Amendments," details several proposed amendments to development regulations related to the EOZ. These would be placed in Chapter 19.39, a new section of the Klickitat County Code.

Highlights include: KCC 19.39:2: Application: A) The Energy Resource Overlay is an overlay over existing zones. Projects permitted through the Energy Resource Overlay shall comply with the standards of this chapter rather than the standards of the existing zone.

KCC 19.39:4: Principal uses permitted outright: A) Wind turbines; B) Natural gas combustion facilities; C) Solar energy facilities; D) Bio-mass energy generation facilities; E) Accessory buildings and structures needed for operation of the above permitted uses.

KCC 19.39:7 Development standards; Setbacks: 1) Energy resource operations shall be sited a minimum of 200 feet away from existing residential structures; 2) There shall be a minimum of 20 feet between energy resource operations and the property line.

KCC 19.39:8: Appeal: A) Appeals may be filed to the Board of Adjustment within 20 days of the decision on project consistency with this chapter ... B) If other appeal hearings are provided or available, then all appeal hearings shall be consolidated before a single hearing body ... The decision of the Board of County Commissioners shall be final unless appealed to Superior Court within 21 days.

The study on the proposed Energy Overlay Zone was prepared by Kennedy/Jenks Consultants of Portland, and is available either on a CD or in a notebook format. The document can be purchased from the Planning Department for $5 for a CD or $100 for the four-inch thick paper copy.

Written comments will be accepted at the Planning Department until Sept. 5. A public hearing regarding the DEIS is scheduled on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m in the Klickitat County Courthouse in Goldendale.

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