The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today posted the Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the transmission line to tie our Greater Echanis Wind Energy Projects to the grid. Although the projects are on private land, since 75% of Harney County is publicly-owned land, our project must cross federal lands to reach the grid. The Draft EIS studies the direct impacts of the transmission line on federal lands, the indirect impacts of our permitted project and the cumulative impacts of some 400 MW of “reasonably foreseeable” future projects possible down the road.
“Our projects will help the region move forward on renewable energy while protecting one of Oregon’s special places,” said Chris Crowley, CEO of Columbia Energy Partners, developers of the renewable energy projects. “Today’s study from the BLM offers the first comprehensive analysis of how our projects minimize their visual and environmental impacts on the Steens while bringing economic vitality to one of the most depressed regions in the state.”
The Draft EIS brings facts and extensive visual simulations to a discussion about the projects’ impacts. As the BLM notes on their web site:
Major issues brought forward during the public scoping process and addressed in the Draft EIS include:
- Visual and aesthetic values;
- Lands with special designations;
- Cultural and tribal resources;
- Public services and transportation;
- Recreation and tourism;
- Social and economic effects; and
- public safety.
The Visual Resource analysis (Appendix D) is a 121 page analysis, with simulations developed by the technical consultants who prepared the EIS for the BLM.
“About 87 points were initially identified in the field as potential KOPs (“Key Observation Points”). Of these, 35 KOPS were selected for study to analyze the Project’s direct, indirect and cumulative effects.”
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said:
“The Steens Wilderness was designed to fit natural boundaries created by the terrain,” said Judge Grasty. “That’s how these projects can help Harney County create green jobs without sacrificing our natural heritage.”
The Greater Echanis projects offer a county facing 18.9 percent unemployment an opportunity to become part of the renewable energy economy.
“These projects will help expand Oregon’s pool of trained green-collar workers,” said Clif Davis, business manager and financial secretary of IBEW Local 48. “And they will harness some of the best wind resources in the state while driving economic benefits into one of its poorest counties.”
The public will have 45 days to review and comment on the Draft EIS. After the comment period, the BLM and cooperating agencies will work with the independent contractor responsible for the study to analyze and respond in a Final EIS (FEIS). The BLM expects to issue the FEIS in the fall.