Monday, May 25, 2009

Something New Something Cloned

Today, I drove from Portland OR to Kennewick WA. This trip takes you out the scenic Columbia River Gorge to the high desert of Eastern OR and WA. The Gorge is a dedicated Federal Scenic Area. You are pretty much not allowed to do anything there but look at it.
Once you pass The Dalles (I always wondered about the "The") you have left the trees beyond. The sky widens, rocks, sage, and grass prevail. It is still very scenic. Recently in our quest for safe clean and politically correct sources of energy we have hit upon the wonders of wind energy generated by huge spinning wind mills. Well, I hadn't been out this way in 6 months or so and I was unprepared for the proliferation of giant spinning fan blades. I used to think of everything east of The Dalles as "The Big Empty". No condos, retail shops, parking lots, just scattered cows, basalt plateaus, and the occasional rattle snake.
Actual cowboys live here. I was quite surprised at the change in the view. From Biggs Junction to Arlington the parade of giant spinning wheels is constant. It reminded me of a scene from a Stephen King novel which I have forgotten the name of. I have been a big fan (no pun intended) of wind power. After seeing the invasion of the hills along the Columbia I am not so sure anymore. Here is yet another trade off for us to consider. The locals have been complaining for quite a spell now about both the noise and the aesthetics (or lack thereof). Now I know what they are talking about.

A little further down the road I shot the following video of the big Potlach poplar farm at Umatilla. This is across the highway from the chemical weapons dump. Many will consider these cloned trees as a grotesque example of Frankenforestry. They are however a very fast growing source of pulp for paper which we just can't seem to live without. Before this plantation was developed the land was devoted to sage brush and rabbit brush and light grazing. With the addition of water from the Columbia River this land has proven to be a very fertile area for growing wheat, trees and spuds. Yes, water from the river that could otherwise support SALMON. Here we go with the trade offs again!

Yes, and I know I am not supposed to drive while playing with the GPS, shooting video, and talking on the phone...

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