Nonprofit Defends Conservation Efforts in the Horse Heaven Hills

1888 Press Release – When revewable energy runs afoul of conservation, local conservation minded communities must fight for fair siting in defense of conservation.

Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, WA – Tri-Cities C.A.R.E.S. is a recently formed Washington Nonprofit whose mission is to support local conservation of wildlife, their ecosystems, and local decision-making to preserve the picturesque natural landscapes that make our communities unique, healthy and beautiful. Tri-Cities CARES is the result of a grassroots effort to challenge the poor siting of the State’s largest wind project spanning 24 miles of the Horse Heaven Hills. That project has had numerous changes in scope, and at this point, there is no clear understanding of what will eventually be built if the project is constructed.

First and foremost, Tri-Cities CARES understands the importance of renewable energy as part of a modernized energy portfolio and consistency with State policy. However, we believe that siting decisions should consider the cost and benefits of each project including impact to wildlife and their habitats, recreational opportunities, and interface with local population. The intent of State law and the National Environmental Policy Act is to strike an appropriate balance. We believe that local authorities and stakeholders are in a better position to weigh the costs and benefits associated with local conservation rather than a remote State agency, i.e., the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), with final approval by the Governor.

Fast tracking projects to bypass local efforts to conserve and preserve wildlife connectivity results in up-ending due process. It favors Goliath multinational developers that are motivated by massive subsidies, which further puts communities at a disadvantage when defending conservation. Renewable energy projects must be checked by conservation as much as big oil or other big money interests, or big money wins and conservation loses, and the point of renewables is lost.

The Horse Heaven Hills Wind project (and now potentially Wind, Solar and Battery Storage [HWSB]), according to our review, has not been properly sited. It causes major impacts to the already diminished shrub-steppe environment and affected wildlife. There are several State Endangered avian species that live and forage within the 120-square-mile project. The Horse Heaven Hills (HHH) is a key part of the Arid Lands Initiative, a collaborative effort to track and preserve key habitat that provides connectivity for state wildlife species. The project is sited near a major metropolitan area and abuts a good portion of the Benton County Urban Growth area.

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) during the public comment period has pointed out the obvious:

“…The immense size of the HWSB along the Horse Heaven Hills ridgeline and the subsequent landscape-scale impact to an important habitat and ecological connectivity will be difficult if not impossible to mitigate. It is important to note that the lineal Horse Heaven Hills represent some of the last remaining functional and uninterrupted shrub-steppe and natural grasslands in Benton County… Development within this ridge will result in further fragmentation and isolation of shrub-steppe and grassland habitat as well as loss of function and value to wildlife”.

The public comments by the WFDW also recommends scaling back the project to solar only and moving the project further to the southwest away from the ridgelines. We support this more fair-sited alternative.

Our area is ecologically unique with the convergence of three rivers, associated wetlands, and vanishing and endangered shrub-steppe that the recently endangered Ferruginous Hawk calls home along with many more at risk and endangered species, such as the Burrowing Owl, and Townsend’s Ground Squirrel. The HHH are prime foraging habitat for large raptors and migratory birds and part of the Pacific Flyway. This project would bisect habitat connectivity on the ground and migratory pathways in the air. We invite you to learn more by visiting our website at

The Tri-Cities has a long legacy of clean energy production and use, including embracing the only operating nuclear plant in the Northwest, collaborating with other public utilities to build an early wind project, and public support for small nuclear technology at the Hanford site. This is far from a “not in my back yard” position regarding the project.

We support environmentally friendly energy projects. The HHH Wind Farm too must be balanced with the environment. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) – Energy Facility-Site Location states an intent to seek that balance. At this point in the process, we have not seen proof that the HHH Wind Farm meets this requirement.

To learn how you can help, or to join our coalition visit us at Click the TAKE ACTION button to donate or volunteer! As this project moves further through the site certification process, it is anticipated that legal assistance will be required. Thank you!

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