Among responses to the Bureau of Land Management by people and groups interested in enXco’s proposed wind project at the south portion of Quaking Aspen Mountain are official comments from Sweetwater County.
While many have voiced either support or opposition to the proposed wind project, the county’s comments re-iterate the its comprehensive plan goals and stances on wildlife, visual impacts, as well as other issues it feels the BLM should look at while accumulating data for its environmental impact statement and record of decision.
The comment letter was sent Friday and signed by Commissioner Wally Johnson.
In the letter, the commissioners cite Wyoming State Statute 18-5-502 which states a wind energy facility cannot be erected, reconstructed or enlarged without obtaining a permit from the county commissioners within the county the proposed facility is located in.
The county requested the BLM consider goals the county has listed within its comprehensive plan. These goals include identifying opportunities for residents to participate in the decision-making process; evaluating natural resource development for their impacts on air, water and environmental quality; recognize the county’s cultural, recreational, environmental and historical resources as well as encouraging a balance between resource development and environmental protection.
The letter states the commissioners encourage Evergreen Wind Power Partners LLC, which is a subsidiary of enXco, to submit a conditional use permit application for the commissioners to consider before the BLM finalizes its decision. The commissioners request completed draft of the BLM’s environmental impact statement, which is expected to be finished in late 2014 or early 2015.
“Utilizing the county’s C.U.P. process to evaluate the Quaking Aspen Project provides the Board a formal structure to receive public comments and a set of standards to evaluate the comments and project design for input into the BLM’s NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process,” the letter states.
The county requests the most restrictive development criteria be placed upon enXco uniformly on lands under BLM administration as well as privately-owned and state-owned lands. The project will encompass a total of 7,652 acres – 48 percent of which is privately owned, 44 percent under the BLM’s administration. State ownership accounts for 8 percent of the total land to be affected by the project.
The county also requests enXco obtain a Sweetwater County Road Use and Maintenance Master Plan and Agreement for the county roads used in the construction of the wind turbines. The agreement would be based upon a traffic studies and address traffic management and define weight limits and road maintenance throughout the year. The county would also require “sufficient bonding” to ensure proper road use and maintenance.
The county suggests the installation of Federal Aviation Administration-approved audio visual warning system to provide on-demand lighting system, which the county believes would also allow the turbines to be painted a “non-white color.”
The county commented that they would like to see additional visual impact modeling coordinated with county personal.
“In the vicinity of this project site there are concerns for elk, mule deer and antelope herds,” the county states when mentioning wildlife protections in its comment letter.
The county wants on-the-ground field surveys and the use of the best available science to determine the potential impacts of the Quaking Aspen project to wildlife in the area.
The county is requesting that the BLM’s EIS to include an analysis 16 issues identified by the county. The issues they identify include soil erosion, an economic impact study, impact to water quality and supply in the area, historic and cultural research on possible archeological resources near and within the project are as well as the location of any threatened or endangered species near and in the project area.
Project siting guidelines provided by the county state a wind project should not be located in areas that have a high potential for biological conflicts, in areas such as wilderness study areas, county and state parks, historic trails and special management areas.
The county states a wind project should avoid visual corridors designated by the county and its planning and zoning commission as essential view sheds or scenic areas. Such areas are designated by the two governing groups after looking at the applicant’s visual simulations and public comments.
The county also states wind projects should avoid erosion and areas containing sites with known sensitive historical and archeological resources. Suggestions and requests regarding development of the site to consider public safety and have financial assurance to guarantee final reclamation and decommission of the project.
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