Carbon County Commissioners touted the economic benefits of the proposed Chokecherry Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project in a statement to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
“The Carbon County Commissioners recognize the importance of wind energy development in the area, and we are fully supportive of the Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind farm,” write the commissioners. “The project will enhance our community by providing many long-term, well paying jobs and provide millions of dollars in anticipated tax revenues.”
The commissioners also support the fourth of four projected options with suggested changes, which is BLM’s preferred amendment to the visual resource plan of the Rawlins management area in a 30-mile radius around the wind farm. Alternative 4 allows the greatest amount of development among the options in the Platte Valley, around Elk Mountain and south of Rawlins.
Some of the commissioners’ suggested changes are to designate Elk Mountain and the area between Saratoga and Elk Mountain as Class III. Class II limits development as the existing landscape must be retained, while Class III permits moderate development.
BLM’s preferred alternative would designate Elk Mountain as Class III and the area east of Wyoming 130 and north of Saratoga as Class IV. Class IV permits major modification of the landscape.
“Tourism is critically important to Carbon County, and the impact of approximately 1,000 wind towers on the landscape must not be underestimated,” write the commissioners. “It is our belief that conservation easements in the Elk Mountain area were not considered in the development of the visual resource plan. Wyoming 130 serves as a gateway to multiple recreation areas and it would be beneficial to expand the Class III designation slightly west of the highway, thus protecting the viewshed on both sides of the roadway.”
The deadline for public comments to the BLM about the amended visual resource plan ended Wednesday. BLM officials are to consider all comments when they write up the final environmental impact statement for the Chokecherry Sierra Madre Wind Farm Project.
The county commissioners also suggested BLM broaden the proposed Class II buffer zone on both sides of the North Platte River from its current quarter-mile width included in the Rawlins management plan.
“The area along both sides of the North Platte River is an important recreation attraction for both locals and residents,” write the commissioners. “We understand Power Company of Wyoming intends not to develop within one mile of this corridor. Due to the importance of the visual quality of the river corridor to the local economy, we propose that BLM widen the Class II designation to protect it from developers of other projects no willing to abide by Power Company of Wyoming’s voluntary one mile buffer.”
Power Company of Wyoming is the developer of the Chokecherry Sierra Madre Wind Farm Project.
The commissioners final suggestion to the BLM is designate both the south and north side of Wyoming 70 as a Class III. In BLM’s preferred alternative, south of the highway is designated a Class III, but the north side is classified as a Class IV.
Serena Baker, High Desert District Public Affairs Officer, said the BLM has received approximately 1,800 public comments concerning the wind farm project and the visual resource plan covering roughly a 30-mile radius around the project site.