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Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic EIS
Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic EIS
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What Is in the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic EIS

The Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) evaluated the environmental impacts of wind energy development that would interconnect with Western Area Power Administration's transmission system in Western's Upper Great Plains region, and on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's grassland and wetland easements in the region.

What is the scope of the analysis in the PEIS?

The PEIS evaluated environmental impacts associated with wind energy development within Western Area Power Administration's (Western's) Upper Great Plains Customer Service Region (UGP Region), which encompasses all or parts of the States of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota; and upon the Service’s landscape-level grassland and wetland easements in the same area. See Where is the PEIS Project Area? for PEIS project area maps.

The PEIS was prepared to support Western's proposed comprehensive region-wide environmental review process for wind-energy project interconnections. The PEIS analyzed environmental impacts resulting from development of wind energy projects, and the effectiveness of mitigation measures, standard construction practices, and best management practices in reducing potential impacts. Impacts and mitigation were analyzed for each environmental resource, and all aspects of wind energy projects were addressed, including construction and installation of:

  • turbines;
  • transformers;
  • collector lines;
  • access roads; and
  • substations;

as well as operation and maintenance of these facilities.

Specifically, the PEIS and program:

  1. Define areas with a high potential for wind-energy development near UGP Region's transmission system in anticipation of future wind-generation interconnection requests.

  2. Define natural and human environment resources in areas with high wind-energy development potential, including Native American lands, to support analyses of the environmental impacts and development of wind-energy resources.

  3. Develop and present mitigation measures for reducing wind-energy development impacts on the natural and human environment for use by interconnection applicants in addressing the environmental impacts of their projects.

  4. Include a completed programmatic Endangered Species Act (ESA) section 7 consultation for listed and proposed threatened and endangered species within the study area boundaries established for the Programmatic EIS.

  5. Identify significant direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts from wind-energy developments and associated transmission system enhancements to support the impact analysis in the Programmatic EIS.

  6. Identify laws, regulations, and policies that have potential to affect wind-energy resource development.

  7. Provide guidance for interconnection applicants that includes:
    • information about natural resources within areas with a high potential for wind development;
    • requirements for subsequent site-specific environmental reviews; and
    • appropriate measures to minimize adverse environmental impacts related to wind projects and associated transmission system enhancements.

What alternatives were analyzed in the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy PEIS?

Four alternatives were considered in the Draft PEIS:

  • a no action alternative (existing program wherein new proposals are considered on an ad-hoc basis without standard mitigation or best management practices);

  • an alternative under which both agencies would implement standardized processes for evaluating the environmental effects of wind energy projects and which identifies best management practices and mitigation measures to be applied where specific resource conditions occur;

  • a hybrid alternative that consists of Western's proposed action for approving wind projects, but would not allow further wind development on any of the Service's easements; and
  • an alternative under which no additional BMPs or mitigation measures would be requested beyond those stipulated under established regulatory requirements.

What impacts and issues were addressed in the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy PEIS?

The PEIS evaluated direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts to:

  • ecological resources;
  • visual resources;
  • noise;
  • land use;
  • cultural resources;
  • air quality;
  • outdoor recreation;
  • water resources;
  • soils and geology;
  • environmental justice; and
  • socioeconomics.

Site-Specific Environmental Review

The intention of the PEIS was not to eliminate the need for site-specific environmental review for individual utility-scale wind energy development proposals. Site-specific environmental reviews are expected to be tiered from the PEIS and to be more effective and efficient because of the PEIS.