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Part of Wyo. wind farm gets federal approval

Two federal agencies have signed off on the first part of a major wind farm planned for southern Wyoming.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Jan. 18 said it had approved the first phase of Power Company of Wyoming's 3,000-MW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. That U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also issued a record of decision indicating that it would issue an eagle take permit when final mitigation plans are provided.

The company plans to build up to 1,000 turbines in Carbon County, Wyo., making it the largest proposed onshore wind energy facility in North America, the BLM said in a press release. The first phase of the project involves construction of 500 wind turbines.

Wyoming legislators have introduced a bill that would prohibit utilities from selling electricity to in-state customers produced by utility-scale wind and solar facilities. Power Company of Wyoming is an affiliate of The Anschutz Corp., which is also backing the development of the proposed TransWest Express high-voltage, direct-current transmission project, which is designed to run from Carbon County, Wyo., to southern Nevada.

The BLM in March 2016 issued for comment a final environmental assessment examining the potential impacts of building 500 wind turbines. That document incorporated and built on an analysis done in a 2012 final environmental impact statement that evaluated the potential impacts of the overall project. Following consideration of public comments, the BLM prepared a finding of no new significant impacts and a record of decision.

For its part, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that it could issue eagle take permits for the project as requested, which included significant avoidance, minimization and compensatory mitigation measures. The permits would cover any unavoidable disturbance of eagles during construction as well as take of eagles during the development's ongoing operation for a five-year period. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said its analysis indicated that it is likely that one or two bald eagles and 10 to 14 golden eagles per year would be harmed or killed by the project.