July 2, 2012 –The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has announced its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, a 2,000-3,000 megawatt wind farm proposed by Power Company of Wyoming LLC in Carbon County, Wyoming.
The Notice of Availability of the Final EIS will be in the July 3 edition of the Federal Register, the official daily publication of the federal government, and begins a 30-day availability period. The Record of Decision is anticipated to be signed later this summer.
PCW submitted an application to the BLM in January 2008 for wind energy development on the federal lands that comprise approximately 50% of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project area. The remainder of the project is located on private lands owned by The Overland Trail Cattle Company LLC.
The BLM held public scoping in late summer 2008 and released the Draft EIS on July 22, 2011. The Final EIS therefore reflects more than four years of environmental data-gathering, analysis, public input and collaboration among federal, state and local cooperating agencies – with BLM serving as the lead agency responsible for preparing the EIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
To proactively address input and environmental issues that arose during the multi-year analysis, PCW significantly overhauled its original proposed action. In 2010, PCW submitted a modified wind development plan to BLM that included avoidance of Wyoming’s designated sage-grouse core areas, greater-than-required turbine setbacks from the North Platte River, and other revisions to further respond to stakeholders and reduce potential impacts – even fully excluding development in some of the nation’s strongest Class 6 and 7 wind resource areas.
The Final EIS identifies Alternative 1R with modifications as BLM’s Preferred Alternative. The document also outlines factors associated with the wind project including its ecological, cultural, economic and social effects as well as measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate potential impacts.
“We believe Alternative 1R reflects a balanced approach that will provide the best opportunity to develop an environmentally responsible, economically viable wind project and to provide the country with millions of megawatt-hours of cost-effective clean energy,” said Bill Miller, PCW president and CEO. “We’re committed to continuing to move forward through the remaining federal, state and local permitting processes, and we appreciate the widespread support we have received for the project and its economic and environmental benefits.”
The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project will be located within TOTCO’s 320,000-acre privately operated cattle ranch south of Sinclair and Rawlins, Wyoming. The ranch’s superb wind resources coupled with smart turbine siting will allow PCW to install up to 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy generating capacity yet permanently use less than 2,000 acres of land.
Once built, the wind project is estimated to generate enough renewable energy to power nearly 1 million homes. Among other benefits: the wind project will advance federal and state renewable energy goals, provide hundreds of millions of dollars in local and state tax revenue, and create and sustain thousands of construction, manufacturing, services and operations jobs.
PCW also has been implementing a comprehensive, science-based conservation plan designed to minimize the project’s potential impacts on sage-grouse, raptors, big game and other wildlife. PCW’s plan includes:
- A sage-grouse monitoring program that uses GPS technology to better understand the birds’ activities and habitat use. Now in its third year, the program and its unprecedented volume of data will help guide PCW’s conservation measures and strategies.
- An avian monitoring program, also in its third year, that combines traditional survey techniques with advanced radar tracking technology to collect insights into where raptors may or may not fly in relation to the project site. PCW is using the data to develop its science-based Eagle Conservation Strategy, and the data also will inform turbine micrositing.
- Collaboration with Wyoming Game and Fish Department on ongoing programs and studies related to pronghorn antelope, mule deer and elk, as well as collaborating with other agencies on sage-grouse research.
“PCW’s wildlife studies not only go above and beyond what was required for the EIS but also reflect an unprecedented level of pre-construction data-gathering and analysis,” Miller said. “We have and continue to work closely with BLM and other federal, state and local authorizing agencies to effectively and responsibly combine wind energy development with ranching operations.”
In November 2011, PCW’s wind project was named by BLM to its list of 2012 Renewable Energy Priority Projects. Because the project is located on a unique combination of federal and private “checkerboard” land, it will help the federal government move closer toward achieving renewable energy and land use goals; specifically, the goal outlined in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to have at least 10,000 MW of renewable energy located on public lands by 2015. In addition, the project furthers the purpose of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Secretarial Order 3285 that “establishes the development of environmentally responsible renewable energy as a priority.”
The Final EIS may be reviewed on BLM’s website at http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/rfo/Chokecherry.html.
Information about BLM’s programs and commitments to advance renewable energy generation and transmission development on federal land are at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/renewable_energy.html.
For more information about PCW and the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, visit www.powercompanyofwyoming.com.
- XXX -