Grays Harbor PUD is one of four Public Utility Districts participating in the project along with Project Developer, Energy Northwest. Grays Harbor’s share of the project investment thus far has been approximately $845,000. The project site is located in Pacific County near Naselle. The project participants are currently in the permitting process and have been working closely with state and federal agencies to ensure the wind project doesn’t adversely impact the regional population of marbled murrelets, a species of bird listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Participants have conducted three years of unprecedented studies which show the project will not have a significant impact on the marbled murrelet and have submitted a draft habitat conservation plan and Environmental Information Document to US Fish and Wildlife for review. The documents will be used to determine if a more costly and lengthy Environmental Impact Statement is necessary in order to secure a permit.
“The budget increase anticipates having to complete an EIS,” said Lovely. “We have taken an environmentally responsible approach to this project but don’t feel it is prudent to invest more money without a strong and clear commitment from US Fish and Wildlife Service that we can move this process forward and bring it to a close in a timely manner,” he said, adding that the project is time sensitive because the participants have been awarded $122 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to finance the project. The bonds must be sold by January of 2013, and permitting must be completed to move forward with the financing.
In addition, the Grays Harbor PUD Commissioners want assurances that the lease for the wind project site with Department of Natural Resources can be extended if additional time is needed to secure permits. “The Board wants to make sure that we have covered all of our bases and have built in contingency plans if there are any unexpected delays in the process,” said Lovely.