Termination of OG&E plans to construct a new power-generating facility at Sooner Lake has the electric provider eyeing state land held by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
One of the state’s wildlife management areas may be sold or leased to OG&E for wind power development. A public meeting is to be held March 12 in Woodward to gather public input on the sale or lease of Cooper WMA to OG&E. The Wildlife Conservation Commission has created a subcommittee to look into wind power issues and to make a recommendation to the commission regarding specific offers the wildlife department may receive for purchase or lease of its properties.
Greg Duffy, wildlife department director, said in the department’s weekly wildlife news, “We have a letter of interest from OG&E about Cooper. The commission is looking at this issue closely because it is a policy decision that could impact several other areas in western Oklahoma that are owned by the department.”
The Hal and Fern Cooper WMA covers 16,080 acres of northwestern and western Woodward and south-central Harper Counties. The ODWC describes the area as primarily upland rolling sand hills with approximately 4,500 acres of river bottom. The Beaver River joins Wolf Creek on the WMA to create the North Canadian River.
OG&E has announced plans to quadruple the company’s wind-power production and help open western Oklahoma for development of wind-power projects. That announcement came Oct. 30, just 18 days after OG&E, Public Service Company of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority announced that each party had agreed to terminate agreements to construct and operate a 950-megawatt plant at Red Rock.
That decision came following the Oct. 11 issuance by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission of an order to verify the commission’s September decision to deny pre-approval for construction of the Red Rock facility.
The corporation commission indicated both PSO and OG&E will need more electric-generating capacity in the future, but also asserted that not enough consideration was given to solutions other than Red Rock.
Within a month, the focus for OG&E switched to quadrupling wind power production. The Oct. 30 announcement outlined plans to begin building a key stretch of transmission power line from Oklahoma City to Woodward, and eventually extending to Guymon. The high-capacity line would be necessary for OG&E and others to deliver wind-generated power from western and northwestern Oklahoma to the rest of the state.
The wildlife department needs to return the same recommendation to OG&E as the corporation commission did – take more time to consider other solutions.
Located in Beaver and Texas Counties are two other WMAs – Optima and Beaver River. It seems logical from the ODWC statement and the plans outlined by OG&E that the company may seek to use ODWC lands to accomplish their goals of wind-power expansion.
That is not the purpose for which those lands were set aside. I have to commend OG&E for their tolerance of hunters and fisherman at Sooner Lake, but state lands should not be targeted to expand company goals, even if the energy produced is environmentally friendly.
The area in question is not densely populated. Land is not hard to find. We are talking about the panhandle, and if OG&E is sincerely interested in wind-power expansion, it should be able to purchase a piece of property on its own.
Those interested in the issue should provide their thoughts to the ODWC by going to their Web page, and e-mailing comments. Those comments will be compiled and presented to the wildlife commission.
10 February 2008
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