The Western Area Power Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, joint lead agencies, will announce in the May 1 Federal Register the availability of the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Final PEIS).
The Final PEIS evaluates issues and environmental impacts associated with wind energy development within Western’s Upper Great Plains Customer Service Region (UGP Region) and upon the Service’s landscape-level grassland and wetland easements. The area covered by the PEIS encompasses all or parts of the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota that fall within the UGP Region boundaries.
The Final PEIS will be publicly available for at least 30 days before either agency makes its decision and issues its separate Record of Decision.
Western and the Service have cooperatively prepared the PEIS to:
- assess the potential environmental impacts associated with wind energy projects within the UGP Region that may interconnect to Western’s transmission system, or that may propose placement of project elements on grassland or wetland easements managed by the Service; and
- evaluate how environmental impacts would differ under alternative sets of environmental evaluation procedures, best management practices, avoidance strategies, and mitigation measures that the agencies would request project developers to implement, as appropriate for specific wind energy projects.
The objective of the PEIS is to proactively strengthen and streamline the environmental review process by having already analyzed and addressed general environmental concerns while specifically providing for Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance for wind development projects that incorporate design elements to reduce impacts.
Through the PEIS, Western and the Service have:
- Defined areas with a high potential for wind energy development near the UGP Region’s transmission system in anticipation of future wind-generation interconnection requests.
- Defined natural and human environment resources in areas with high wind energy development potential, including Native American lands, to support analyses of the environmental impacts and development of wind energy projects.
- Identified standardized environmental evaluation procedures, avoidance areas, best management practices, and mitigation measures to be used by interconnection applicants for identifying and reducing wind energy development impacts of their projects on the natural and human environment.
- Initiated a programmatic ESA Section 7 informal consultation for federally listed and proposed threatened and endangered species within the study area boundaries established for the PEIS that may be affected by future wind energy development.