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BLM reviews road upgrade for Wyoming wind farm

The Bureau of Land Management is opening an environmental review of a Converse County road upgrade crucial to plans for a contested wind energy project.

County officials have applied to upgrade Mormon Canyon Road south of Glenrock, where work is needed to open the way for construction of the proposed 62-turbine Pioneer Park Wind Energy Project.

The work crosses federal land and must get federal approval. It would widen the road and reduce tight curves.

The section of the road that triggered the federal review is a quarter-mile stretch “in a narrow canyon with steep sides and a drainage crossing” about 10 miles south of Glenrock, the BLM said in a media release.

Wasatch Wind is the Park City, Utah-based developer of the 100-megawatt project. The company is currently involved in a the latest of a string of legal battles over the project initiated by the Northern Laramie Range Alliance, a group of landowners and others opposed to the project and other projects the group’s members characterize as industrialization of the area.

“Our cabin is off the grid, yet a monstrous wind farm is planned nearby,” wrote Sally Sarvey, an alliance steering committee member, in an email to the Star-Tribune.

Sarvey said the alliance submitted a letter in June to the BLM’s Casper field office asking the agency to look carefully at the road upgrade proposal.

Mormon Canyon Road is a rough, trail-like road closed to traffic in winter and not maintained by county road crews, Sarvey wrote. The road’s history stretches back to Mormons who manned a trail way station at Deer Creek nearby and discovered and utilized area coal deposits.

“This area is also important for its sensitive cultural and historical significance as well as the pristine natural and wildlife-rich environment,” she wrote.

The alliance “welcomes the opportunity for the area users and others to comment on the dramatic changes which are in store for the road and in addition requests that prior to construction a full environmental and historic review be conducted,” she continued.

The alliance’s members will individually comment on the road upgrade, Sarvey said, but the steering committee will ask for assurances the resources along the road are preserved.

BLM spokeswoman Lesley Elser said the agency had conducted what’s known as a cultural resources inventory along the quarter-mile stretch and none were identified.

Meanwhile, the project is still locked in court over the state Industrial Siting Council’s approval of the project. The Wyoming Supreme Court has heard arguments on the council’s approval but has yet to issue a decision.

Written comments on the road upgrade proposal must be submitted by Oct. 26 and may sent to the BLM’s field office in Casper at 2987 Prospector Drive, Casper, WY 82604 or emailed to Casper_WYMail@blm.gov. Questions about the proposal can be directed to Randy Sorenson at 307-261-7522 or the above email address.