|Wind Watch is a registered educational charity, founded in 2005.
On April 6, 2023, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission produced documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, which sought information related to Scout Energy’s Nimbus Wind Farm Project. Being good public servants, the AG&F adhered to the Arkansas Sunshine Law and shed light on what has been a seemingly opaque endeavor thus far.
The following excerpt from a Scout Energy–Fish&Wildlife Service (FWS) meeting on September 27, 2018, is illuminative, and somewhat surprising:
“All signed leases are public information, and over more than two years of project development there has been no public opposition made known to Scout…
“We recommend that in the Introduction you include the outreach that has been conducted to inform the public to date so that we can demonstrate why an EA and a 30-day comment period is appropriate and meeting with the Service HCP handbook policy on public outreach.”
Further, the meeting notes indicated that from what Scout had said, it sounded like public officials had been kept regularly informed…and if public officials have been involved, it is incumbent on them to inform their constituents.
No public opposition?! How could there have been any opposition when constituents have been kept so utterly in the dark? The initial permit for an Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Stormwater Construction Permit for two test sites on 8.5 acres (548 total) was issued in November 2016. Now, six years later, there has been a scant amount of information that has come to light. The emerging controversy and opposition in regard to this project, and its related risks to karst, groundwater, well water, endangered species, bald eagles and bats, necessitates a public notice and comment period of at least 90 days, not the 30-day standard.
For the record’s sake, it is critically important to note exactly what the Habitat Conservation Plan Handbook has to say about required public comment periods as they relate to lack of public involvement:
HCP Handbook 14.6 Required Public Comment Periods :
Service policy requires at least a 60-day comment period for a draft EIS or on an EA for HCPs that are large-scale or regional. If the public hasn’t been involved, we may need to add 30 days to the comment period. For HCPs that are exceptionally complex or precedent-setting, FWS policy requires a 90-day public review/comment period. If we anticipate a lot of interest in an HCP, it may be prudent to add 30 or 60 days to the comment period so you don’t have to reopen or extend it.
It is fair to say that Scout Energy’s Nimbus Wind Project has been complex and precedent setting on many levels. First, there has virtually been no outreach for public involvement of Carroll County constituents. Second, this is the first windfarm in the State of Arkansas; the methodologies used for this project could become the norm for other wind projects in the state. Third, the proposed location likely sits atop a complex karst geologic setting, which requires geotechnical testing for subsurface voids, cavities, and fractures. Fourth, the location includes an undetermined number of bats and bald eagles, both of which Scout Energy has included in a 30-year Incidental Take Permit.
Under these circumstances, the FWS should add the maximum number of days for public comment on Scout Energy’s Habitat Conservation Plan.
The illuminative trove of FOIA documents also contained a FWS staffer’s statement, which offers a glimpse of what may come for those of us who live in karst:
“…modeling has identified the Boston, Ozark, and Ouachita mountains as the ecoregions with the greatest average wind speeds at 100 meters above surface level in Arkansas and hence where most development will be proposed if wind energy development does ramp up within the state. The Arkansas field office is interested in creating a wildlife and habitat risk map for land-based wind energy in Arkansas similar to North Carolina’s map for the eastern part of the state. fws.gov/raleigh/es_windmap.html.”
For the sake of the Natural State, let’s hope the creation of a wildlife and habitat risk map for land-based wind energy happens sooner than later.
SW Carroll County resident
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding