In recent years there has been a surge of interest in wind power development in Kittitas County, Washington. Potential impacts to natural resources, and in particular avian resources, are often of concern with proposed wind developments. Wind power proposals are commonly scrutinized by natural resource agencies and private conservation groups. Frequently, extensive baseline studies are conducted at proposed development sites to gather site specific information used in the overall impact assessment and siting of the project.
Currently, two different developers have proposed construction of three projects within the county. The three proposed projects are: (1) the Kittitas Valley Wind Project (KVWP), (2) the Desert Claim Wind Project (DCWP), and (3) the Wild Horse Wind Project (WHWP) (Figure 1). The DCWP has been proposed by Desert Claim Wind Power, LLC, wholly owned and operated by enXco, Inc. The KVWP is proposed by Sagebrush Power Partners, LLC and the WHWP is proposed by Wind Ridge Power Partners, LLC both of which are owned and operated by Zilkha Renewable Energy. As currently proposed the KVWP would be either 121 or 151 turbines (181 MW capacity), the DCWP would be 120 turbines (180 MW capacity), and the WHWP would be approximately 120 turbines (up to 249 MW capacity). For all three projects combined a total of approximately 361 to 391 turbines are proposed for Kittitas County. The actual number of turbines developed could vary based on a number of factors including turbine model selected, electricity markets, transmission constraints, and results of site surveys and permitting requirements.
The analysis presented in this report is based on the three projects proposed in Kittitas County. The total study area using the lease area boundaries of the three projects is approximately 17,000 acres (26 mi2). Over the past one to two years the avian resources at each of these sites has been studied in detail. A one-year baseline study for the DCWP was completed in March 2003. Results of this study are reported in Young et al. (2003a). The KVWP site was studied from February to November, 2002 and January to March 2003 and results are presented in Erickson et al. (2003a). Studies of the WHWP site took place from May to June 2002 and September 2002 to May 2003; Erickson et al. (2003b). The three baseline studies were similar in field surveys and methods. For avian resources, point count stations were established on all three sites from which approximately weekly surveys were conducted during the respective study periods. Raptor nest surveys were conducted at all three sites within an area encompassed by a two-mile buffer around each project-specific study area. For the KVW P and DCWP, winter roadside surveys for bald eagles were conducted from routes that dissected and were near the individual project sites. For all three study areas, observations of big game animals (deer and elk) also were recorded during the standardized bird surveys and incident ally while observers were on site, and surveys for sensitive plant species and vegetation mapping were conducted. Detailed descriptions of the methods and data analyses for each project-specific study are reported in the respective baseline study reports. Please refer to those studies for additional information.
This report provides a cumulative impacts analysis based on the studies prepared for the DCWP, the KVWP and the WHWP. The results of the data analyses and an estimate of potential avian impacts from each individual project are provided in those individual reports (see Erickson et al. 2003a and 2003b, Young et al. 2003a). Additional details about each study and the data analysis methods can be found in those reports. This report does not reiterate results from the individual project specific reports. This report is intended to provide a broader analysis utilizing the combined data sets from all three projects as well as a cumulative impacts analyses of potential impacts to avian resources, nesting raptors, bald eagles, and big game. For this report, each data set was analyzed separately and then averaged for each season, except for the flight height and exposure index tables where, the three data sets were combined into one database. The results of this analysis are presented below. Areas in which the results varied significantly from the individual project analyses are identified and discussed. In addition, we provide an estimated cumulative impacts analysis of the three projects on bats based on results of studies from other wind power projects because bats were not studied at any of the three project sites during the baseline studies.
The data sets analyzed in this report were collected using similar methods, and were collected from the same general geographical area, which provides a useful basis for the cumulative impacts analysis presented in this report.
Site Certificates for the KVWP and the WHWP are being pursued through the Washington State Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), while Desert Claim is seeking a development permit for the DCWP through Kittitas County. Currently, all three projects are undergoing some level of environmental analysis. For example, Kittitas County is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the DCWP while EFSEC is preparing an EIS for the KVWP, but EFSEC is currently only performing a preliminary site analysis of the WHWP.
This report is designed to support the EISs currently being prepared by the County and EFSEC and to support EFSEC's analysis of the WHWP. The larger data set analyzed in this report strengthens the basis of much of the impact analysis for the individual projects, because of the increased spatial and temporal replication within the Kittitas Valley. The combined data set and the cumulative impacts analysis presented in this report is intended to provide an additional level of impact analysis that may be used in the EIS currently being prepared by the County for the DCWP, the EIS currently being prepared by EFSEC for the KVWP, and in EFSEC's analysis of the WHWP and in EFSEC's analysis of the WHWP.