Mitigation factors were a key discussion point in a non-public meeting Wednesday about the Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind farm project.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management archeologist Pat Walker met with several state and federal historical and cultural organizations in Rawlins. The purpose was to develop an agreement between the Power Company of Wyoming, the developer of the 1,000-wind turbine farm located south of Rawlins, and the historical and cultural societies.
When completed, the agreement will spell out the mitigation PCW has to do for the impact the wind farm has on the view shed, access, and any physical damage to the historical and cultural sites in the area.
The meeting was not open to the public to protect the location of archeological sites, preventing them from being vandalized or looted, Walker said.
The public was not allowed in because private land owners didn’t want the locations revealed where historical trails such as the Overland Trail cross their properties, said Mary Hopkins, a state historical preservation officer.
“We represent the state’s interest,” Hopkins said. “The historical sites located in and near the projected wind farm site will be adversely impacted. These meetings will determine what PCW will return to the state.”
The Wyoming Historical Preservation Office was also part of the agreement process for the Atlantic Rim natural gas project, located west of Rawlins, Hawkins said. Required mitigation could be similar between the projects.
“Anadarko’s mitigation for that project included paying for the production of a one hour documentary called ‘Wyoming’s Historic Trails,’ which was shown on Wyoming’s Public Broadcasting Station several times,” Hopkins said. “I suspect Power Company of Wyoming will be instructed to do something similar in this case. They may have to film the views from different spots along the Overland Trail, and from other historic sites, to show what it looked like before any turbines go up. The reasoning is to capture and preserve what the surrounding land looked like to the pioneers when they walked the trail to get to the West Coast back in the 19th century. ”
Walker provided no timeline for when the agreement may be completed, but said it would be made public at the same time as BLM’s record of decision or final environmental study on the Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind farm project. There’s no public comment period on the agreement, Walker said.
“This is a very complex issue because there is so much public and private lands involved. There are going to be a lot more meetings.” said Lesley Wischmann, a founding member of the Alliance for Historic Wyoming. “Our main concern is that the BLM properly assesses the socio-economic impact this wind farm will have on the nearby towns and on the cultural resources.”
The I-80 corridor will change dramatically, Wischmann said, pointing to the White Mountain wind farm in Sweetwater County and the Gateway and Trans West transmission lines, as well as the Chokecherry Sierra Madre project
“It’s going to look like an industrial center. We want the BLM to make sure the organizations that protect our cultural resources have sufficient funding to do its work.
“We also want the BLM to assure that our cultural resources continue to be promoted, because if people think they are driving through an industrial park they might think there are no historical sites worthy of stopping for.”
Some of the other organizations participating in the meetings were the Oregon-California Trails Association and Tracks Across Wyoming.