The earliest commercial wind project attempting to take advantage of Sweetwater County’s wind was the White Mountain Wind Farm, a project started by Gary Tassainer of Teton Wind Power LLC of Lehi, Utah.
According to a memo written by Steve Horton, a planner with the county’s planning and zoning department, the project began with a conditional use permit application submitted to the county Nov. 28 2005. That application, according to the memo, would have approved construction of 133 wind turbines on land owned by the Rock Springs Grazing Association on White Mountain.
On Dec. 22, 2005, the county returned the permit application to Teton Wind Power. In a letter drafted to Teton Wind Power, the county claimed private commercial wind farms were not a permitted use in the county’s zoning resolution. By July 5, 2006, wind farm regulations would be adopted by the Sweetwater County Commissioners.
One year later, on July 30, 2007, Teton Wind Power submitted a conditional use permit application for the White Mountain Wind Farm. Again the RSGA was listed as the property owner in the permit; however the company included two alternatives in its application. The first called for the construction of 48 wind turbines at the site while the second would call for 41 turbines.
On Aug. 8, 2007, public notice was published regarding the project’s public hearing through the Sweetwater County Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 12 while another was scheduled with the Sweetwater County Commissioners Oct. 2. The advertised plan utilized the 41 turbine layout. One day after the notice was published; Teton Wind Power changed the site layout to feature only 36 turbines. The 36 turbine layout became the official design for the project.
On Aug. 16, a meeting between county planning staff, Tassainer and Rick Frandsen of Teton Wind Power and Tasco Engineering, the engineering firm Tassainer operates in conjunction with the wind project, takes place. At the meeting, the memo states Tasco Engineering doesn’t consider the project to be under the state industrial siting council’s jurisdiction. The council offers state permits on industrial developments, including wind farms. According the to the ISC’s website, any commercial wind project utilizing more than 30 turbines need to apply for a permit.
On Aug. 23, a public notice was published listing the dates for the public hearings regarding the wind project. That notice used the 41 turbine layout as its official layout.
On Aug. 29, a letter from Tom Schroeder from the ISC is received by the county. The letter states the council does have jurisdiction with the project and required wind farms with a total construction cost of $168.3 million or more to apply for a permit. Those with cost under that amount still must apply for a certificate of non-jurisdiction through the ISC.
On Sept. 12, the planning and zoning council hosts a public hearing for the wind farm proposal and votes 3-1 in favor of recommending the issue to the county commissioners. One month later, during the Oct. 2 commissioners’ meeting, the 36 turbine project is approved for a five-year conditional use permit.
The next year, on June 26, 2008, the county received a conditional use permit application from Tassianer’s son Jesse for a 62-turbine layout at White Mountain Wind Farm. The applicant listed the RSGA and Bureau of Land Management as land owners, but staff at the planning department determines the application incomplete and a hearing isn’t scheduled. On Sept. 2, Tasco Engineering submits a request to move the location of the 36 turbines approved. The commissioners table the request and a special meeting is planned to tour the site Oct. 14, however it was cancelled due to bad weather. On Nov. 18, Tasco Engineering filed a request to untable their proposal to move the 36 approved turbines. After discussion, the company withdraws its proposal to change locations.
Three days later, the county receives a scoping request from the BLM filed by Teton Wind Power for a 240-turbine wind farm at its White Mountain Wind Farm location. An open house for the notice was scheduled at the Rock Springs BLM Office Dec. 11.
In April 2009, the county receives a conditional use permit from Teton Wind Power for a 237-turbine White Mountain Wind Farm on land owned by the RSGA, BLM, Anadarko and the state. On June 30, a public hearing for the 237 project takes place at the Rock Springs City Hall. The commissioners don’t take action following the hearing, but do request the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office and an attorney from Tasco Engineering to submit findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the conditional use permit. Attorney Richard Mathey submits a draft findings and conclusions document, which state that the application is incomplete and information must be submitted before action on a new permit can take place.
During a Nov. 17 public hearing, the commissioners review the documents and deny the 237 turbine conditional use permit. The wind project suffers a further set back when the Wyoming Legislature drafts statutes for wind development in Wyoming counties. Any project not under construction at that point was nullified.
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