A public hearing by the Board of Lewis County Commissioners (BOCC) on a proposed code change allowing research on windmills has been postponed from Tuesday, Sept. 20, to Oct. 4.
More than 100 people attended a meeting on the code change hosted by Commissioner Lindsey Pollock at the Baw Faw Grange earlier this month. There, she said her seatmates, Commissioners Sean Swope and Lee Grose, were in favor of the change while she was not. Posting the BOCC email addresses and phone numbers on a screen, she encouraged constituents to speak out and attend the public hearing.
The amendments, requested by Scout Clean Energy, would allow temporary research and data collection on Weyerhaeuser land in Lewis County that is currently only zoned as forest resource land. If approved, Scout Clean Energy could install equipment to determine if wind energy production is viable.
The research would take place in the Willapa Hills south of Baw Faw peak, west of the Boistfort Valley. If a wind farm were established there, Pollock said it would be visible not only throughout the valley, but from her home in Winlock and likely even farther.
The potential project, Pollock said, is being facilitated by the Lewis Economic Alliance (formerly the Economic Development Council) and that all commissioners had been briefed on the topic, but she said she was able to “follow the rat path,” in a way her colleagues did not.
She argued the code change would take away the county’s control over a potential wind farm on the site due to a state law passed in the last session that gives the state, rather than counties, the final say on permitting for projects related to energy.
In a county meeting after Pollock’s presentation to constituents, the other commissioners, she said, “stated they needed more time to do research.”
She added she thought her meeting was effective at grabbing their attention and that they seemed surprised by the number of people who were interested in the topic.
At the grange, several residents spoke into the microphone and expressed a broad range of concerns about windmills, with one even reading off a several page list. Worries included bird deaths, view obstructions, raised energy rates and more as one resident suggested “bombarding” the other two commissioners with emails and calls.
Asked how to balance the property owner’s rights with the community’s interests, Pollock said because of Growth Management Act regulations on zoning that were passed in 2010, Weyerhaeuser had the opportunity to designate that land as something other than forest resource land.
“Once you put that in you have to consider that ‘OK, this is what people have a reasonable expectation to have going on,’” she said, later adding, “Now that they want to change that it becomes a community discussion.”
Commissioner Sean Swope could not be reached for comment.
To learn more about the code amendment, the county is encouraging folks to contact Lewis County Senior Longe-Range Planner Mindy Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-740-2610.