Feds issue draft EIS on big Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will in the April 29 Federal Register put out for comment until June 27 a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) covering an application from Power Company of Wyoming (PCW) for eagle take permits (ETPs) under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).

PCW has applied for standard and programmatic ETPs for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre (CCSM) Phase I Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, Wyoming. Phase I is up to 1,500 MW in size, while Phase II would be up to another 1,500 MW.

As proposed by PCW, the Phase I CCSM Project will consist of approximately 500 wind turbines, a haul road, a quarry to supply materials for road construction, access roads, a rail distribution facility, underground and overhead electrical and communication lines, laydown areas, operation and maintenance facilities, and other supporting infrastructure needed for Phase I to become fully operational. PCW has applied for a standard ETP for disturbance related to construction of CCSM Phase I wind turbines and infrastructure components, and a programmatic ETP for operation of the CCSM Phase I Project.

The applicant has prepared an ECP identifying measures it intends to undertake to avoid, minimize, and compensate for potential impacts to bald and golden eagles. To help meet requirements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the applicant has also prepared an avian protection plan containing measures the applicant proposes to implement to avoid or minimize impacts of the project on other migratory birds.

The CCSM Phase I Project would be situated in an area of alternating sections of private, state, and federal lands administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2012, BLM completed a final EIS (FEIS) to evaluate whether the project area would be acceptable for development of a wind facility in a manner compatible with applicable federal laws. In October 2012, BLM published a Record of Decision (ROD) determining that the portions of the area for which PCW seeks right-of-way grants “are suitable for wind energy development and associated facilities.” BLM’s decision does not authorize development of the wind energy project; rather, it allows BLM to accept and evaluate future right-of-way applications for the project.

PCW has since submitted to BLM site-specific plans of development from which BLM is developing site-specific tiered environmental assessments (EAs). In 2014, BLM published a final EA which analyzes major components of project infrastructure, including the haul road, rail facility, and rock quarry. EA 2 is currently under development by BLM, and analyzes the wind turbines and pads, access roads, laydown areas, electrical and communication lines, and a construction camp.

The CCSM Phase II Project, which could be developed at a later date, would consist of up to an additional 500 wind turbines.

Construction of the infrastructure components, beginning with Phase I Haul Road and Facilities and the West Sinclair Rail Facility, is expected to begin in 2016 and continue through 2019. PCW would install turbines, beginning with Phase I of the Sierra Madre WDA, in 2019 to 2020. The peak construction workforce is anticipated to be 761 workers in July and August 2017. The construction schedule would comply with the requirements of the BLM NEPA process and with applicable wildlife timing stipulations.

BLM was taking comment until April 22, under an extended public comment period, on the Phase I draft EA and draft Finding of No New Significant Impacts (FONNSI).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.