U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement available for review
April 20, 2016 –The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, addressing Power Company of Wyoming LLC’s voluntary application for a programmatic eagle take permit and avian conservation plans.
The Draft EIS analyzes avian conservation measures and planning specific to Phase I of the proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. A formal 60-day public comment period will begin when the Notice of Availability of the Draft EIS is published in the Federal Register.
PCW developed its avian conservation plans, the Phase I Eagle Conservation Plan and the Phase I Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy, based on its collaboration and coordination with the Service since 2010. Both plans are built on a foundation of over five years of scientific data-collection and over 5,000 hours of avian use surveys specific to the CCSM Project site. The plans are designed to be consistent with the Service’s Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance and Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines.
Under the Service’s 2009 Eagle Permit Rule that applies to a variety of human activities and industries, the Service may “authorize the limited take of bald eagles and golden eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, where the take to be authorized is associated with otherwise lawful activities,” such as generating clean, cost-effective wind energy supplies.
The Service approves programmatic permits only when rigorous conditions and requirements are met, including developing a detailed evaluation of the risk to eagles, implementing all practicable measures to reduce that risk, and providing mitigation and compensation in the event of take – all elements that are incorporated in PCW’s Phase I Eagle Conservation Plan.
“PCW is implementing all practicable measures to avoid and minimize potential eagle take. Most significant, we’ve used years of science to guide all turbine siting, including fine-tuning the CCSM Project Phase I layout through six major data-driven revisions,” said Garry Miller, PCW vice president of land and environmental affairs.
“We worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and expert environmental consultants throughout the process to develop a wind project that meets the high conservation standards that an eagle take permit requires.”
In addition to removing, relocating and adjusting Phase I wind turbines based on years of site-specific data, PCW has voluntarily set aside over 105,000 acres, or about 33 percent, of the 320,000-acre Overland Trail Cattle Company ranch as specific “turbine no-build areas” – a significant, proactive conservation measure. PCW also intends to place a conservation easement on 27,500 acres of private land – including areas with some of the nation’s very best wind resources – that will benefit eagles and other wildlife.
As a further environmental benefit, by harnessing the nation’s highest-quality onshore wind resources, Phase I of the CCSM Project – at 1,500 MW of nameplate capacity – is estimated to produce nearly 6 million megawatt-hours of clean electricity per year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons per year.
The Service will host two public open houses in Carbon County, Wyoming, to allow the public to review the Draft EIS, ask questions and provide written comments for consideration as the Service prepares its Final EIS. The meetings will be 4:30-6:30 p.m. on June 6 in Saratoga and June 7 in Rawlins. The Service’s environmental analysis documents are available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/wind/ChokecherrySierraMadre/index.php.
The CCSM Project is a proposed 1,000-turbine wind energy project to be built in two phases on checkerboard private-public ranch land in Carbon County, Wyoming. PCW applied to the Bureau of Land Management for wind energy development rights-of-way in 2008. After completing a project-wide Environmental Impact Statement from 2008-2012, the BLM approved the CCSM Project site for wind energy development in a Record of Decision signed Oct. 9, 2012, by then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. BLM’s subsequent environmental analysis of the specific plans for Phase I in environmental assessments tiered to the project-wide EIS is nearly complete. BLM’s environmental analysis documents are available at https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/plans-in-development/wyoming/ccsm.
For more information about the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, visit www.powercompanyofwyoming.com.
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