Yakama Leader Eager to Buildby Associated Press
YAKIMA, Wash. -- A Yakama Indian tribal leader wants the Bonneville Power Administration to remove power lines from his property so he can lease it to a wind farm.
Yakama Tribal Councilman Leo Aleck is suing the Northwest power marketing agency on behalf of 22 other tribal members with property where BPA leases have expired.
Aleck said they can make more money by leasing the land for wind farms.
Ed Mosey, a spokesman in BPA's Portland, Ore., headquarters, said Friday that the dispute involves easements on lands within the reservation boundaries, but which are privately owned by individual families, or groups of families of tribal members.
He said the agency has been trying to reach settlements on new leases.
The BPA has made settlement offers to some landowners based on the value of pasture land, said Tom Nelson, a lawyer who represents Aleck.
But the property would be worth 50 times its current value if wind turbines are erected, wind farm developer Bruce Morley said. Morley has worked with Indian tribes in other states to develop wind-generated electricity.
"It certainly has good potential as a wind power source," Morley said. "It would be a worthy use of the Indian land because it would be using something from Mother Nature and create clean power."
Property owners would receive a lease agreement for the turbines and a share in profits, Morley said.
Aleck said he learned earlier this year that a 50-year lease on Columbia River property he and two sisters inherited from their mother expired in May 2003.
Their mother was given a one-time payment of $170 for the 160-acre lease, he said.
Some landowners are worried that the BPA would seek condemnation action for the properties the transmission lines cross.
Legally, BPA can claim a right of way, Nelson said.
Nelson said Aleck could block any condemnation move because he donated some of his easement property to the Yakama Nation, which is sovereign.
Condemnation would be a last resort, BPA spokeswoman Darby Collins said.
Dana Peck, director of the Klickitat County Economic Development Department, said larger winds farms would bring the most benefits, allowing electricity to be made at a lower cost, bringing jobs to the area and creating much-needed electricity.
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