The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to seek public comments on whether to allow what could be the biggest wind farm in the U.S. to kill a limited number of bald and golden eagles without breaking the law, the agency announced Wednesday.
The Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project south of Rawlins will have as many as 1,000 turbines and power nearly 1 million homes.
Wind farms are known for catching birds in their rotors.
One eagle take permit would apply during initial construction, set to begin in 2019. The other would cover the first 500 turbines for five years.
Fish and Wildlife estimates those turbines would kill 10-14 golden eagles and 1-2 bald eagles each year. The estimate could change and will determine how many eagles could be killed under the permits.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits killing the birds, trafficking in their parts or eggs, or removing their nests.
Fish and Wildlife will take public comment on the proposed permits until late June. A 60-day public comment period will follow publication of the eagle take proposal in the Federal Register, according to Fish and Wildlife.
Power Company of Wyoming, a subsidiary of The Anschutz Corp. based in Denver, is developing the wind farm on a mix of federal and private land. Federal agencies have been analyzing project since 2008.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimated in 2012 that all 1,000 turbines would kill 46-64 golden eagles. The Fish and Wildlife estimate, which applies only to the first phase, takes into consideration measures including wind turbine siting intended to reduce eagle deaths.
“We worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and expert environmental consultants throughout the process to develop a wind project that meets the high conservation standards that an eagle take permit requires,” Power Company of Wyoming Vice President Garry Miller said in a release.
The company initially sought a 30-year eagle take permit. Power Company of Wyoming sought a five-year permit instead after a federal judge in California ruled that Fish and Wildlife failed to follow federal law when it extended the maximum permit duration to 30 years.
A wind farm in Fresno, California became the first in the country exempted from prosecution if a certain number of golden eagles were killed by the blades of their turbines.