The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce in the Dec. 9 Federal Register that it is issuing a final environmental impact statement (EIS) in response to an application from Power Co. of Wyoming (PCW) for eagle take permits (ETPs) pursuant to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).
PCW has applied for standard and programmatic ETPs for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Phase I Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, Wyoming. The final EIS will be available for public review for 30 days beyond Dec. 9, after which the service will issue a record of decision. Phase I is 1,500 MW in size, while a later Phase II is also sized at 1,500 MW.
The notice of intent to prepare an EIS for this project was published in the Federal Register in December 2013. A notice of availability on the draft EIS was published in the Federal Register on April 29, 2016.
As proposed by PCW, the CCSM Phase I 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 a Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy (BBCS) 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 that are administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2012, the 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.”
As explained in the ROD, the 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 subject to the requirements of all future wind energy development described therein. PCW has since submitted to the BLM site-specific plans of development from which the BLM is developing site-specific tiered environmental assessments (EAs).
In 2014, the BLM published a final EA 1, which analyzes major components of project infrastructure, including the haul road, rail facility, and rock quarry. On March 9, 2016, BLM published EA 2, which analyzes the wind turbines and pads, access roads, laydown areas, electrical and communication lines, and a construction camp. The service has incorporated by reference information from the BLM FEIS, ROD, EA1, and EA2 into its final EIS in order to avoid redundancy and unnecessary paperwork.
The service analyzed the proposed action alternative, the proposed action with different mitigation, an alternative to issue ETPs for Phase I of Sierra Madre Wind Development Area only, and the no-action alternative. The service identified the proposed action as the preferred alternative. The proposed action is for the service to issue ETPs for the construction of the Phase I wind turbines and infrastructure components and for the operation of the Phase I CCSM project, based on the ETP applications submitted by PCW. The proposed action includes avoidance and minimization measures, best management practices, and compensatory mitigation described in detail in the EIS and in PCW’s application and ECP. PCW has proposed to retrofit high-risk power poles as compensatory mitigation, thereby reducing eagle mortality from electrocution.