The primary purposes of this Avian and Bat Protection Plan (ABPP) are to summarize the baseline avian and bat studies conducted within the proposed Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Facility (OWEF), identify measures to avoid and minimize risks through site planning, best management practices (BMP’s), advanced conservation practices (ACP’s), and describe the adaptive management, monitoring, and reporting requirements for the proposed project. This plan describes the measures that would be implemented prior to, during, and following construction to protect migratory and resident birds and bats and allow for the proposed wind energy facility in an environmentally responsible and practicable manner. This ABPP was prepared in accordance with the Interim Guidelines for the Development of a Project Specific Avian and Bat Protection Plan for Wind Energy Facilities (US Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] 2010a) and with the California Guidelines for Reducing Impacts to Birds and Bats from Wind Energy Development (California Energy Commission [CEC] 2007).
In order to address the growing interest in developing wind energy resources and National Energy Policy recommendations to increase renewable energy production capability, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began evaluating wind energy potential on public lands and developing a wind energy policy. In October 2003, the BLM started preparation of a Wind Energy Development Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze the potential impacts of wind energy development on public lands and to minimize those impacts to natural, cultural, and socioeconomic resources. The PEIS was published in June 2005, and in December 2005 the Record of Decision was signed to implement a comprehensive Wind Energy Development program on BLM-administered lands in the western United States (BLM 2005). The program has established policies and BMPs to address the administration of wind energy development actions on BLM lands and has identified mitigation measures. The programmatic policies and BMPs of the Wind Energy Development Program allow project-specific analysis to focus on the site-specific issues and concerns of individual projects. On August 24, 2006, the BLM Washington Office issued Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2006-216, Right-of-Way Management, Wind Energy Land Use Plan Amendments, Wind Energy that provided guidance on issuing rights-of-way (ROWs) for wind energy testing, monitoring, and development (BLM 2006). Until then, the BLM had an interim wind energy policy, issued in 2002 (BLM 2003).
In August 2009, Pattern Energy, through Ocotillo Express LLC (OE LLC), applied for a testing and monitoring ROW near Ocotillo, California. Since then, it has maintained anemometers to determine the suitability of the project for wind energy development. In October 2009, OE LLC applied for a wind energy development ROW grant from BLM. The ROW grant would be for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the 112-turbine, approximately 300-megawatt (MW) OWEF and associated facilities. The OWEF would be located on approximately 12,565 acres in the project area and consist of up to112 turbines, including 6 potential alternate turbine locations and associated infrastructure.
In December 2008, a new IM, 2009-043, was issued to update policy and give further guidance on processing Wind Energy Facilities (WEFs) on BLM-administered lands (BLM 2009). OE LLC’s Plan of Development (POD) complies with the 2008 guidance. The POD was tentatively finalized in February 2011 but may change in response to comments on the preliminary Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Assessment (EIR/EIS).
On July 9, 2010, IM 2010-156 was issued to provide direction for complying with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act), including its implementing regulations (i.e., September 11, 2009, Eagle Rule [Rule] 50 CFR parts 13 and 22) for golden eagles, and to identify steps that may be necessary within the habitat of golden eagles to ensure environmentally responsible authorization and development of renewable energy resources. OE LLC has developed an Eagle Conservation Plan as a separate document, but in support of this Avian and Bat Protection Plan.
1.3 Facility Description
The principal components of the OWEF would consist of wind turbine generators (WTGs), an underground electrical collection system for collecting the power generated by each WTG, electrical substation and switchyard, access roads, Operation and Maintenance (O&M) building, temporary laydown and storage areas, concrete batch plant, sand and gravel source, fiber-optic communications, four permanent meteorological (MET) towers, and one radar unit. The maximum temporary and permanent disturbance areas are described in Table 1 below. The OWEF totals approximately 12,565 acres, all of which are on BLM land covered by the requested ROW except for 26 acres of private land. This is to allow for the necessary set back distances and spacing between individual WTGs and linear arrays. The total area estimated for use by the wind energy facility (including both short- and long-term disturbance) is approximately 491.6 acres, or approximately 4.0 % of the total ROW.