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Wind farm draws local interest  

Credit:  By John Feely, Rawlins Daily Times, www.rawlinstimes.com 23 August 2011 ~~

The first of two open houses for the proposed Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind farm drew about 60 people in Rawlins during its first hour Monday at the Jeffrey Center.

Several Rawlins residents at the open house were concerned about how the turbines will affect their view of Miller Hill, Sheep Mountain and other landmarks. Many people expressed disappointment some wind turbines would be visible from I-80.

Residents were also concerned about the effect on hunting in the area.

“I think it’s initially too big for here,” said 70-year-old Stan Rothenberger of Rawlins. “One of the best mule deer habitats in the lower 48 (states) is going to get knocked out. They (AEMCO employees) told me they are going to be running trucks up and down the haul road for 20 hours a day during construction. You can forget about the sage grouse. I’m glad I’m so old I won’t see most of it (built).”

Rawlins business owner Harry Lovato, however, was in favor of the project.

“I think it’s good. It’s another resource to sell,” Lovato said.

Employees from the project’s contractor, AECOM of Fort Collins, Colo., and the Bureau of Land Management’s field office in Rawlins were on hand to answer questions. Residents were encouraged to fill out a public comment form.

On display at the public open house were maps of where the 1,000 proposed wind turbines could be placed south of Rawlins and Sinclair, virtual photos of what the 380-foot high turbines may look like from landmarks, and graphs of potential wildlife and vegetation impact.

The project would be on public and private lands.

The Power Company of Wyoming, the company that would own the wind farm, also brought an avian warning system, which representatives said should steer birds away from the blades of the turbines.

The second open house is 4-7 p.m. today in Saratoga at the Platte Valley Community Center.

One point of the public meetings is to present changes the Power Company of Wyoming made to its original proposal in response to BLM feedback. BLM officials didn’t want turbines on Miller Hill or in sage grouse breeding grounds.

The company’s response was to build 1,000 wind turbines across 3,900 acres, an area smaller than the original proposal. Some of the turbines would be placed within the Grizzly Special Management Area and within four miles of sage grouse breeding areas.

It would cause a direct loss of 225 acres of crucial winter habitat for mule deer, according to figures presented at the meeting. The company also projects 368 miles of permanent roads in seasonal ranges for both mule deer and pronghorn.

A survey taken in 2008 led to the creation of another alternative. It requires all wind turbines to be built on private lands. Melanie Martin, AECOM assistant project manager, said this alternative would permit 846 wind turbines and would affect 5,600 surface acres.

Power Company of Wyoming officials said this plan would cause a direct loss of 244 acres of crucial winter habitat loss, and result in 513 miles of permanent roads in seasonal ranges for both mule deer and pronghorn.

Another point of contention for a couple of Rawlins residents at Monday’s meeting was all of the energy developed by the proposed wind farm would be sent to the West Coast.

Source:  By John Feely, Rawlins Daily Times, www.rawlinstimes.com 23 August 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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