Wyoming’s Rail Tie Wind Project Continues in Spite of Opposition
On Nov. 19, the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) published the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Rail Tie Wind Project, allowing for more assessments on the impact that the wind turbines will have.
The project, which is being undertaken by ConnectGen, is still at least a year away from the start of construction and the EIS also attempted to address some of the comments that were received both for and against the project.
Mark Wieringa, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document manager at WAPA, said that throughout the public review process for the EIS, they received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative.
"To paint a very broad brush, a lot of people are very in favor of renewable energy until it happens nearby," Wieringa said. "There's always a group of people that will be unhappy...What I have seen though, is we've seen a really broadband of reactions. We'll have people come to us and say I really like to watch wind turbines work, I'm in favor of renewable energy, and one lady even said I find it very calming. And we got other people that show up with torches and pitchforks, all up in arms about the impact on their viewshed, and everything in between."
While WAPA worked with a third party to put out the EIS, their role in the process mostly revolves around how the completed wind turbines will be connected to a power grid, with ConnectGen handling who will be involved in the construction process.
Anne Brande, the founder of the Albany County Conservancy, one of the groups opposed to the project, said that she believes that by having wind turbines, people will be less likely to move to the area or hire her photography services.
"I worry about my economic development," Brande said. "I'm not going to be taking too many portraits of people with this in the background, and my husband is worried about recruiting quality help for his technology business. A lot of people choose to move to an area because of their access to pristine nature and outdoor recreation."
Brande said there are 10 people who work at the Conservancy, all of which are volunteers, with money donated to them, around $4,000, being earmarked by donors to specific sources.
While owning a business in Laramie that may be impacted by the project, Anne Brande and her husband Even Brande also own a ranch in Colorado, with a section in Wyoming, that is within several miles of where the project is set to be built.
Brande and her husband are listed as president and treasurer of the Conservancy respectively, while Leslie Lund, who works as an assistant at Brande's photography business, is the group's secretary.
Brande said she believes there can be many negative impacts from this kind of wind project, similar to oil and gas projects.
"We are looking at the negative impacts of oil and gas, many people are looking at it, but how many people are really weighing in on the negative impacts of industrial wind," Brande said. "I don't know if I would deem it bigger. When you put something in the wrong location, it then has negative impacts."