Zilkha Renewable Energy (Applicant) proposes to construct and operate approximately 136 wind turbines on high open ridge tops between the towns of Kittitas and Vantage in Kittitas County, Washington, on and near Whiskey Dick Mountain. The Wild Horse Wind Power Project (the “Project”) is anticipated to provide up to 312 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. It would be constructed on privately owned land and public land administered by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).
The Applicant has contracted with Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. (WEST) to develop and implement a survey protocol for a baseline study of wildlife, habitat, and plants in the Project area. The protocol for the ecological baseline study is similar to protocols used at the Kittitas Valley, Vansycle, Klondike, Stateline, Maiden, Condon and Nine Canyon wind projects in Oregon and Washington, the Buffalo Ridge wind project in southwest Minnesota, and the Foote Creek Rim wind project in Wyoming.
This report summarizes the results of the ecological baseline studies conducted from May 10, 2002 through May 22, 2003. The wildlife portion of the ecological baseline study consisted of 1) point count and in-transit surveys for wildlife species, 2) an aerial survey within approximately two miles of the Project boundary for visible raptor nests and wintering big game in the spring of 2003 and 3) aerial and ground surveys during the breeding season for sage grouse in the Project vicinity. Rare plant surveys and habitat mapping were also conducted and has been summarized in a separate report (Lack et al. 2003). Information on sensitive plant and wildlife species within the vicinity of the Project was requested from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP). The recent synthesis of baseline and operational monitoring studies at wind developments by Erickson et al. (2002), as well as other relevant information has been reviewed and has been utilized for predicting impacts from the Project. Agency personnel were contacted for information regarding their concerns and data available on wildlife of the general Project area.