Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Proposed wind farm intrusion to hikers?

June 24, 2009, 7:30 am

A National Park Service official says a wind project proposed for a Skamania County site just outside the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area would intrude on the experiences of people traveling two national historic trails. 

Both the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Oregon Pioneer Historic Trail pass through the Gorge, and both also pass within five miles of where turbines would rise at the Whistling Ridge Wind Project, said Rory D. Westberg, the Park Service’s deputy regional director for planning and resource management.

"Historic travelers on these trails used both the river for downstream transportation and adjacent lands for eastward travel," Westberg noted in a letter to the Bonneville Power Administration. "When Congress designated these trails, it also authorized auto tour routes along Interstate 84 and Washington Route 14. The viewshed from both the river and auto tour routes is a critical part of the visitor experience."

The BPA is working with the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, a state agency, to prepare a joint environmental impact statement for the 75-megawatt project. SDS Lumber Co. of Bingen has applied to build 50 turbines atop a ridgeline on industrial timberland it owns near Underwood.

Westberg noted that, in addition to designating historic trails to mark the routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Oregon Trail, Congress also protected the Gorge itself by designating it a national scenic area in 1986.

"These three national resources are independently significant, but the close proximity of all three to each other creates a unique recreational opportunity for visitors to the region," he wrote. "It is important for the (Park Service) to ensure that the scenic and historic values of these areas are preserved from gross alteration of the landscape and viewshed by large-scale industrial development."