Power Co. of Wyoming LLC (PCW) has announced another development regarding the federal permitting of its massive Chokecherry and Sierra Madre (CCSM) Wind Energy Project, a 3 GW wind farm planned for southeastern Wyoming.
The company says it is submitting a comprehensive eagle conservation plan, along with an application for a programmatic eagle permit, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for environmental review and approval.
Recently, the issue of avian protection at wind farms entered the national spotlight when a Duke Energy subsidiary reached a $1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The company was fined in relation to the deaths of golden eagles and other migratory birds at two of its wind farms in Wyoming.
PCW says that its CCSM project of up to 1,000 wind turbines has already been analyzed by federal officials in a final environmental impact statement (EIS) published by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in June 2012, and the site was authorized by the Department of the Interior in October of that year.
According to PCW, its eagle conservation plan is built on a foundation of years of scientific data-gathering and wildlife monitoring. The eagle permit application will be analyzed in an EIS by the FWS, and the permit would cover PCW's first phase of 500 wind turbines.
Under the agency's 2009 Eagle Permit Rule that applies to a variety of activities, the FWS 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 wind energy.
To assist in its preparation of the EIS, the FWS is conducting a 60-day public scoping period, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
"As a responsible energy developer, PCW is demonstrating its commitment to the preservation of eagles by implementing all practical measures to avoid and minimize potential eagle takes," says Garry Miller, PCW vice president of land and environmental affairs.
In addition to the eagle conservation plan, PCW says it is submitting an avian protection plan related to other migratory birds. The company has been developing both plans based on ongoing discussions with the FWS since 2010.
When PCW determines it will proceed with Phase II wind development, the company says it will submit a Phase II Plan of Development to the BLM for environmental review and a Phase II Eagle Conservation Plan and permit application to the FWS for environmental review.
The 2012 BLM record of decision stated that the agency will not issue PCW a notice to proceed to construction without the FWS' concurrence on eagle conservation plans.