May 12, 2011

Wasatch Wind parks win county permits

By ADAM HERRERA, Douglas Budget, 11 May 2011

Wasatch Wind Pioneer Parks I and II will go forward as planned, at least at this initial stage. The Converse County Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the county-level permit for the wind farms proposed for south of Glenrock.

Several key items were addressed in the meeting before approval was given, including two contract stipulations requiring further road use contract amendments.

“I think we need to more tightly address workforce use of the other roads,” Commissioner Jim Willox said. “I think it is pretty clear what we want to do if we have equipment using other roads, but the workforce (going to the wind farms) is one you can’t directly control. You can encourage, you can suggest, but we know from past experience that you don’t get to tell workers how to get to the job site, you just want to make sure they are there on time. So although our intent is clear, I’m not sure that it is quite spelled out the way we want it.”

The commissioners made sure to not only address road use but future road repairs, which was a huge concern among local residents.

“The question for me becomes what will Mormon Canyon be after. Is it going to be repaired, or is it going to need to be re-done?” Willox asked.

Initial estimates for road repair bonding were around $250,000, but after further review it was determined that a sum of $425,000 per paved mile would be more accurate, which Wasatch agreed to bond.

“In general, I think we all agree that we’ll leave the road in the same or in better condition than it is today,” Willox said.

Wasatch Project Manager Christine Watson Mikell further disclosed that the Wyoming Department of Transportation will not allow them to use Windy Ridge or Boxelder Roads for equipment purposes, answering another issue that had been expressed by several concerned residents in prior meetings.

Willox also requested a stipulation be made in the contract to include a retrofit policy that would require Wasatch to install the proposed lighting technology should the FAA approve it in the coming months.

OCAS (Obstacle Collision Avoidance System) is an aircraft detection and warning system. Use of this system, along with FAA approval, would allow the flashing red strobe lights on each turbine to remain off until an aircraft is detected. The technology is already in place in the US on transmission lines and some bridges and has been approved for wind farms in Canada.

Willox also addressed the notification issue, which could have required Wasatch to resubmit their application had the findings gone the other way.

“The biggest concern that we had out of the public hearing was the notification (process),” Willox explained. “I think we have answered that to my satisfaction. This has not happened in a vacuum. Anyone who has wanted to know about this project has known about it, so there is nobody that is being surprised by it. I do believe that the technical requirements to notify people have been met.”

Commissioner Major Brown was the only member of the board to vote against the parks.

“There are just so many people in this county that are against the wind farm, that I felt they should be represented, too,” Brown said. “I have several concerns with what they are doing, they say they are going to fix up the road up there in Mormon Canyon, but they don’t say how they are going to fix it. In the last meeting, they sprang Edison Electric on us, and everything just keeps changing and mounting up. They never seem to be consistent in what they are going to do, so it kind of makes me wonder down the road if we can trust them or not. There are just too many questions for me to vote yes to it.”

The Northern Laramie Range Alliance, the lead opposition to the wind farms, has already filed an appeal with Converse County District Court to reevaluate the due process conducted by the board prior to the approval.

Next up for Wasatch Wind is the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council hearings, which are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. May 15 at the Clarion Inn and Convention Center in Douglas to look at the state permitting required, and it is likely to be just as contentious as the county hearing.

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