Wautoma solar power 2

A cow and a few rams are seen beneath a shade tree on the Robert Ranch 5+1 Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, with the Rattlesnake Hills in the background. The ranch, just east of the Yakima County line, has about 150 head of cattle year-round and also has sheep grazing in the springtime.

In the mid-1980s, the owners of the Central Washington Railroad proposed building a rail marshalling in the Lower Yakima Valley near Mabton.

The plan was to have freight trains coming from the east drop their loads in the marshalling yard, then pick up another load to continue to the Puget Sound ports. The trains coming in from the east would be resorted, and then be ready to go dockside, with their loads being prepared to be loaded directly the ships. This would help reduce the number of containers that would need to be stored around the ports waiting to be shipped.

While at the port the train would be reloaded with inbound containers, which would be taken to Mabton, and sorted into trains that would continue east.

This facility, if built, would have been a major economic boost to the area, from property taxes, jobs and supplies needed to keep the facility working. When the ships backed up in Los Angeles last year, this could have helped keep the world’s economy moving. But a few NIMBYs were opposed to building the marshalling yard, and the plan was dropped.

In the 1950s, the federal government was developing plans to dam the Columbia River, including Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. The south bank of Priest Rapids dam sits in Yakima County, but the Yakima County Public Utilities District, which was dissolved several years ago, did not do the work needed to have Yakima County own part of the dam. Grant County has prospered since the dams were built, being they have some of the cheapest power in the country, which many need industries need. But Yakima Country missed on another opportunity.

The world is now at a point where wind and solar power, are cost competitive with other sources of electricity.

Yakima County does not have the wind resource available to build wind farms. But we do have sunshine, and thousands of acres of rangeland, much of it that does not have the water and soils to product large amounts of feed for livestock.

The county has a landowner with a large block of land that is not very productive. The landowner has a company that wants to build a solar facility and has a power company ready to buy the power.

But the Yakima County Board of Commissioners seems to want to slow down and study the project, and any other solar projects proposed in the county. I do not understand why they think that they know better than the landowner and the solar power company if the project is a good plan.

Commissioners are holding a public hearing this week on a six-month moratorium they set back in July on solar farm development in unincorporated areas of the county. The hearing is at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Room 33B in the basement of the Yakima County Courthouse, 128 N. Second St. in Yakima.

Yakima County has missed out on several projects that could have benefited the county. I hope that they do not cause the county to miss out on the future again.

Carl Hurlburt has lived in Central Washington all his life. His parents were farm homesteaders on the Roza Irrigation District. He has been interested and involved in community affairs for most of his life.