ePlanning DOI-BLM-WY-D030-2016-0046-EA (Chokecherry and Sierra Madre - Phase I Wind Turbine Development)  
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01/18/2017 09:58:37 MST
The BLM has approved the development of the first 500 wind turbines for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre (CCSM) Wind Energy Project.  The Decision Record, Finding of No New Significant Impact, and Final Environmental Assessment are available on the Documents tab located on the left-hand column of this site.  These turbines represent Phase 1 of a two-phase proposed project that would build up to 1,000 wind turbines on almost 220,000 acres south of Rawlins, Wyoming.

This project represents the largest proposed onshore wind energy facility in North America; when fully operational; the project will be capable of generating up to 3,000 megawatts of clean, renewable power, enough to power nearly one million homes.  

In March, the BLM prepared and released for public review an EA analyzing the potential impacts of constructing and operating 500 wind turbines on mixed ownership land.  After reviewing public comments, the BLM has now refined and improved the analysis in the EA, which tiers to a 2012 Environmental Impact Statement that the BLM prepared to evaluate the potential impacts of the project as a whole.

The BLM administers approximately half of the land associated with the project site; the remainder of the site is made up of privately owned and state lands.  Only a portion of the total land area would be used for or disturbed by the project.  No ground-disturbing activities associated with the turbines can begin until the BLM issues a Right-of-Way (ROW) grant and Notice to Proceed.  

The Power Company of Wyoming LLC (PCW), which will develop and operate the project, has consulted closely with the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to design an Avian Protection Plan and an Eagle Conservation Plan for this project.  These plans include measures to avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts to avian and bat species.  In addition, the project will avoid Sage-Grouse Core Areas and includes a conservation plan that accommodates ongoing ranching and agricultural operations.  The developer also will avoid sensitive viewsheds in the project area to protect tourism and outdoor recreation values.  Permits to build the project will be contingent on implementation of wildlife protection measures.  

In addition, the BLM will coordinate issuance of a Notice to Proceed for Phase I of turbine development with the FWS’s decision regarding issuance of an Eagle Take Permit for Phase I of development.  An Eagle Take Permit would allow for the non-purposeful take of eagles associated with construction and operation of the project. To support its decision, the FWS has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the potential impacts of issuing an Eagle Take Permit.

The entire project is expected to support 1,200 jobs at peak construction, and is also expected to create more than 100 permanent positions in operations and maintenance.  Phase I of the project is estimated to generate almost $200 million in property-tax revenue during construction and over the first 20 years of operation.  PCW estimates Phase I will also contribute $116 million from sales taxes and $118 million from a state wind-electricity tax over 20 years.
The Secretary of the Interior approved the Record of Decision relating to the overall CCSM project in 2012. The  ROD and the associated Environmental Impact Statement anticipated the need for additional reviews for specific components of the project, including infrastructure and turbine construction and operation.  In 2014, the BLM completed an EA to analyze the potential impacts from proposed infrastructure components—haul roads, a rail distribution facility, and a rock quarry. No new significant impacts were identified beyond those already analyzed in the 2012 EIS, and the infrastructure components were approved by a Decision Record in 2014.

Since 2009, the BLM has approved 60 renewable energy projects on public lands, including 36 utility-scale solar facilities; 11 wind energy projects and 13 geothermal plants, with total capacity when completed to generate up to 15,567 megawatts (MW) of power.

For additional questions, please contact Heather Schultz at 307-328-4215.