The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held an information and question-and-answer session Monday at Saratoga Town Hall about the proposed Chokecherry/Sierra Madre wind farm project.
The meeting – the 63rd pulic meeting about the project according to Tony Brown, Public Affairs Specialist at the BLM – was attended by about 25 members of the public, plus representatives from the BLM, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as representatives of the Power Company of Wyoming, the company hoping to build the wind farm. Avian species deaths was forefront of the mind of members of the public who attended the meeting, but other issues raised by members of the public included future planning for decommissioning of the site after the windmills become obsolete, water rights and use, and even the project’s impact on the Overland Trail.
Because of the potential impact on bald and golden eagles, it was necessary for the U.S. Fish and Game Department to issue an eagle kill permit, Clint Riley, from the Department’s Denver Regional office told attendees. An eagle kill permit is needed anytime eagles may be killed or otherwise disturbed. This eagle kill permit will be the first issued by the Denver Regional office, and was the first one applied for in the region, Riley said.
The Bureau also discussed a bird and bat conservation strategy that came about as the result of a study of environmental impacts of bird and bat species in the area of the proposed project.
A spokesperson of Power Company of Wyoming was asked to explain how the project might affect water use at the site. The spokesperson said that there would be a brief increase in water use during the construction phase, but otherwise there was no anticipated increase in water use at the site over current levels.
BLM’s Chockecherry/Sierra Madre project manager, Heather Schultz, also addressed questions about the eventual dismantling of the site. Because the site has an estimated useful lifespan of 20 years, Power Company of Wyoming has been required by federal and state agencies to post a bond to cover the cost of project decommissioning, Schultz said.
The project will move forward, but several federal and state agencies will have to work together to approve the project, Schultz said.
The BLM is seeking public comment on the project, and the deadline for public comments has been extended from April 8 until April 22. Comments can be emailed or mailed to the BLM office in Rawlins.
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