In the fall of 2007, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) initiated a stakeholder Taskforce (Taskforce) to assess current and future project facility siting and permitting in Oregon’s Columbia Plateau Ecoregion2 (Ecoregion). The Taskforce included conservation and environmental organizations, wind project developers, local governments, and representatives of USFWS, ODFW, ODOE, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). As wind project development continues to rapidly expand in the Ecoregion, the Taskforce is charged with developing regionally consistent, voluntary siting and permitting guidelines that allow for additional wind power development while avoiding or minimizing impacts to wildlife resources. Consistent application of these guidelines by all wind developers, permitting authorities, resource agencies, and interested stakeholders is essential to successfully balance expansion of wind power resources in the region with conservation of wildlife resources. It is the Taskforce’s view that while these guidelines were developed for specific application on the Oregon side of the Ecoregion, the guidelines process and approach can be adapted to other Oregon ecoregions and across state lines, and that a coordinated, consistent approach across the region is desirable.
The Taskforce recognized that while the expansion of wind power resources has the potential to significantly impact wildlife and habitat, it also provides significant environmental benefits. The Oregon legislature has acknowledged the environmental benefits of the wind industry through the passage of related legislation. Oregon law requires utilities to provide 25% renewable energy to their customers by 2025. In addition, Oregon has established goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% below 1990 levels by 2050. Maximizing the Ecoregion’s wind energy generation potential will be an important factor in achieving Oregon’s renewable energy and climate change targets. These guidelines seek to support future wind energy development, thereby achieving multiple environmentally beneficial goals, while providing careful guidance towards protection and conservation of important biological resources.
The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that wind project siting and permitting for all project sizes within the Ecoregion in Oregon, at all permitting jurisdictional levels (both county-level conditional use permitting and the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) site certification process3 ) is protective of important biological resources. While these Guidelines were designed to help wind project developers comply with state and federal wildlife regulations and policy, they do not in any way supersede or delegate current regulation at the state and federal level.