Some families in the vicinity of Ione, Ore., have complained to the county planning commission that noise from the Willow Creek Wind Farm, which borders their homes, exceeds allowed levels.
IONE, Ore. — Residents of the remote high-desert hills near here have had an unusual visitor recently, a fixer working out the kinks in clean energy.
Patricia Pilz of Caithness Energy, a big company from New York that is helping make this part of Eastern Oregon one of the fastest-growing wind power regions in the country, is making a tempting offer: sign a waiver saying you will not complain about excessive noise from the turning turbines — the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the future, advocates say — and she will cut you a check for $5,000.
“Shall we call it hush money?” said one longtime farmer, George Griffith, 84. “It was about as easy as easy money can get.”
Mr. Griffith happily accepted the check, but not everyone is taking the money. Even out here — where the recession has steepened the steady decline of the rural economy, where people have long supported the massive dams that harness the Columbia River for hydroelectric power, where Oregon has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives to cultivate alternative energy — pockets of resistance are rising with the windmills on the river banks.
Residents in small towns are fighting proposed projects, raising concerns about threats to birds and big game, as well as about the way the giant towers and their blinking lights spoil some of the West’s most alluring views.
Here, just west of where the Columbia bends north into Washington, some people are fighting turbines that are already up and running. In a region where people often have to holler to be heard over the roar of the wind across the barren hills, they say it is the windmills that make too much noise.
“The only thing we have going for us is the Oregon state noise ordinance,” said Mike Eaton, an opponent of the turbines.
Oregon is one of a growing number of places that have drafted specific regulations restricting noise from wind turbines. The Oregon law allows for noise to exceed what is considered an area’s ambient noise level by only a certain amount. But what those ambient levels are is sometimes disputed, as is how and where they should be measured.
And while state law limits turbine noise, the state office that once enforced industrial noise laws, housed within the Department of Environmental Quality, was disbanded in 1991, long before wind power became a state priority.
Click here to read the full New York Times article by William Yardley.