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State Game Lands Development

Wind Energy Review Guidelines for State Game Lands

Submitted by William A. Capouillez, Chief
Division of Environmental Planning & Habitat Protection
Date: 25MAR2005

Background:

Recently the Bureau of Land Management has been solicited by numerous "wind energy " companies who are seeking opportunities to erect windmill turbines on Game Lands in order to harvest pronounced and consistent wind patterns and convert those wind's energy into electric power. These multiple windmill sites and affiliated infrastructure are commonly referred to as "wind farms" and are recognized as clean energy sources. The intent of the wind farm is to convert the wind energy into electric power by causing the wind to turn fixed blades (normally 3 blades, each blade approximately 70 feet in length) atop a turbine structure (reaching some 240-440 feet overall height.) The rotation of the blades (at a 17 rpm maximum) mechanically turns an electric generator unit housed within the windmill. Each windmill's electric generator produces electricity that is then directly connected to a fixed electric transmission line used to collect and transport the power to a local electric grid for sale and redistribution. This sale is often to an existing public electric utility to supplement local and regional public electric needs. These proposals usually encompass large areas of ridge tops where winds are most prevalent and may entail numerous windmill site locations (as many as 180+ proposed locations each approximately 15 feet in diameter base) with large support area requirements for infrastructure needs such as access roads (18-31 feet wide during construction, 15 feet wide final design) and electric transmission right of ways either overhead or buried. These wind energy projects can generate as much as 1.5 megawatts of electricity. In some rare cases, the windmill(s) electric generation power is for private needs to provide electric power for a local business, often with any unused residual electric to be sold to a public utility. These proposals are usually much less intrusive both in electric generation capabilities (normally 10 kilowatts or less) and the overall aerial extent of the supporting infrastructure impacts.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission recognizes the need to explore alternate energy resources and overall supports the "clean energy" concepts of electric generation. Likewise, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has expressed its support of clean energy sources by mandating that a minimum of 18% of the Commonwealth's consumptive power use come from these types of energy sources by the year 2020. However, the protection of the inherent recreational use of the Game Lands and its associated wildlife habitat values are to remain the highest priority with regard to the Commission's review of wind energy project proposals on State Game Lands throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, the use of Game Lands to accommodate such types of wind energy projects must not only be reviewed and approved within strict accordance of Title 34 Game & Wildlife Code, but also reviewed to ensure the protection and conservation of the Commonwealth's wildlife resources. Likewise, the sportsmen and women who paid for and use these lands must receive better than equal compensation in both wildlife/recreational and monetary compensation values should a wind energy project on Game Lands ultimately be approved by the Commission.

Guidelines:

The following is the Commission's guidelines to reviewing wind energy project proposals on State Game Lands throughout the Commonwealth which are not encumbered with Federal Aid Funds:

  1. Inquiries regarding wind energy projects shall be directed to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau of Land Management, ATTN: Chief, Division of Environmental Planning & Habitat Protection, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17011-9797. All subsequent coordination with appropriate Game Commission Harrisburg and regional staff shall be the responsibility of the Bureau of Land Management.

  2. Prior to initiating any proposed project site selection on Game Lands, a wind energy applicant (Applicant) may wish to first conduct preliminary data collection via installing an anemometer structure, or other such type of weather data collection device on Game Lands. Approval for such data collection equipment shall be made in writing by the Game Commission through an application approval process designed and administered by the Game Commission's Bureau of Land Management's Real Estate Division. The noted application approval process shall include a recommendation from the Game Commission's respective Regional Office having responsibility of the subject Game Lands complex and include, at a minimum, the results of the Game Commission's site selection criteria, as more clearly set forth in the Game Commission's "Initial Site Selection Criteria Guidelines for Wind Energy Projects on Game Lands." (See attached.) Applications for installing weather data collection equipment on Game Lands shall be approved under the auspice that the Game Commission would, if further solicited by the Applicant, authorize the Applicant to conduct an alternative site analysis regarding any future proposed wind energy project in the vicinity of the data collection.

    An Applicant may elect to forgo preliminary data collection efforts on Game Lands and directly solicit the Game Commission to review the overall feasibility of pursuing a proposed wind energy project on the subject Game Lands. Should the same occur, the Game Commission's respective Regional Office having responsibility of the subject Game Lands complex shall complete and forward to the Game Commission's Bureau of Land Management, the results of the "Initial Site Selection Criteria Guidelines for Wind

    Energy Projects on Game Lands". Upon having reviewed the same, the Bureau will provide the Applicant with a written determination of the overall feasibility of pursuing the proposed wind energy project on the subject Game Lands and if applicable, authorize the Applicant to conduct an alternative site analysis.

  3. An Applicant, must have first received written authorization from the Game Commission prior to utilizing the Game Lands to conduct an alternative site analysis, or must have received prior written approval from the Game Commission by way of the application process noted in Item #2 above allowing for the installation of weather collection data equipment on Game Lands. Applicant's conducting an alternative site analysis shall include at least two other potentially feasible project locations, not on Game Lands, in order for the Game Commission to more adequately determine whether a feasible alternative exists which would otherwise generally meet the project's intended goals and requirements while simultaneously avoiding the use of Game Lands. The alternative analysis shall be presented to the Game Commission in a written report from the Applicant including, but not limited to, the following information:

    • a detailed site comparison of all potential project locations as pertaining to recently measured pertinent analytical wind/weather data from each
    • a detailed site comparison of all potential project locations as related to surface impacts from the proposed project locations site configuration and related infrastructure needs, accompanied by applicable maps/diagrams
    • a comprehensive environmental and wildlife impact analysis from each of the potential project locations with special emphasis given to potential bird and bat impacts and the avoidance and minimization measures applicable to each as more clearly defined by the United States Department of Interior Fish & Wildlife Service's "Interim Guidelines to Avoid and Minimize Wildlife Impacts from Wind Turbines." (website reference is http://www.fws.gov/r9dhcbfa/windenergy.htm.)
    • a detailed site comparison of all potential project locations as relates to potential public benefits that would be derived from the project, to include any known impacts to Federal, State, or public lands and/or natural resources, and how those noted impacts would comply with any known regulations or policy governing the use of those lands or natural resources for wind energy projects.
    • all additional comparative analysis information as per the written request of the Game Commission.

    Upon the final review of the submitted report, and at the sole discretion of the Game Commission, the Game Commission will make a determination in writing to the Applicant as to whether or not the proposed project is deemed to have enough justifiable merit for the Applicant to pursue more formal negotiations for the project's development on Game Lands.
  4. Should the "alternative analysis report" warrant more formal negotiations for project development on Game Lands, the Game Commission will proceed with those negotiations by way of a land exchange process. The land to be exchanged to the Game Commission shall be deemed to be greater in aerial extent, wildlife habitat value, and recreational use potential than that of the Game Lands parcel proposed for exchange to the Applicant. Those lands to be exchanged from the Game Commission shall not create an interior holding or large indenture on the respective Game Lands complex. Further all land exchanged from the Game Commission shall include a perpetual easement allowing for public hunting and access as the same would have been enjoyed had the land remained under Game Commission ownership, conditioned if need be, to ensure the public health and safety of the use of the land compatible to the project's intended design and purpose. The land exchanged from the Game Commission shall also limit the development of the surface to that of the intended project only and shall have a $1 right of first refusal to the Game Commission should the project be abandoned in whole or in part such that the project's electric generation output falls below 25% of the average of the highest three years on record. Further, all timber, oil/gas & mineral rights currently owned by the Game Commission shall be excepted and reserved from the parcel for the future use of the Game Commission providing the same is not incompatible with the project's intended use.

  5. A comprehensive 2-year pre-construction, and 2-year post-construction monitoring proposal for measuring the potential adverse impacts to birds and bats shall be developed by the Applicant and approved in writing by the Game Commission. The monitoring plan shall include currently available best management practices (BMP's) regarding monitoring techniques, time/frequency of monitoring periods, and complete description of all analytical equipment and designated personnel which will be utilized to conduct the monitoring. The monitoring plan, upon written approval of the Game Commission shall be made part of the conditions of the land exchange agreement noted in Item #4 above.

  6. In addition to the land exchanged noted in Item #4 above, the Applicant may be required to make a negotiated minimum annual payment to the Game Commission for each windmill constructed on lands formerly owned by the Game Commission regardless of their construction date and electric generation output. Additional payments to the Game Commission may also be required by the Game Commission and payment due on a monthly basis as a set negotiated royalty rate based upon the sale price of each kilowatt of electricity generated from each windmill(s) located on lands formerly owned by the Game Commission. In lieu of this royalty payment the Game Commission may opt to receive electricity to one or more of its buildings within the Commonwealth. Payment schedules and rates will be based on the Game Commission's sole discretion and the Game Commission's comparison estimate of wildlife/recreational values associated with the lands proposed to accommodate the exchange and the project development.

  7. The Pennsylvania Game Commission's Board of Commissioners must make final approval for any proposed action relating to windmill projects on Game Lands.

NOTE: This policy does not address Game Lands acquired, developed or managed with Federal Aid funds (including lands used as match for acquisition or development.) In the event that "Federal Aid funds" were used, hunting license revenue consideration of the proposal will be in part governed by Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration regulations at 50 CFR 80 and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service policy on commercial use in addition to the Game & Wildlife Code. When applicable, additional documentation to comply with other Federal compliance requirements such as the National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act will be required.

Initial Site Selection Criteria Guidelines for Wind Energy Projects on Game Lands.

Last revised DATE: 14FEB2006
Bureau of Land Management
William A. Capouillez, Chief
Division of Environmental Planning & Habitat Protection

RE: Supplemental Guidance Information
"Wind-Energy Review Guidelines for State Game Lands."

Any potential wind energy project on Game Lands must first generally meet the minimum site selection criteria, as more clearly set forth in this document. If in the opinion of the Commission, the proposed project can not generally comply with the Commission's duty as mandated in Title 34 Game & Wildlife Code to "protect, propagate, manage and preserve the game and wildlife of the Commonwealth" the Commission shall not support or otherwise encourage the Applicant to pursue the potential site area for a wind energy development project on the Game Lands. The overall purpose of this "criteria" is for the Commission to conduct a preliminary review of potential wind energy project's location on the Game Lands and the surrounding areas in order to discern if there are any unacceptable adverse impacts which would occur to the Game Lands complex and its intended recreational use, any known critical or unique wildlife habitats, and any wildlife resources under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. These guidelines are to be reviewed subjectively and if the Game Commission determines that "unacceptable impacts" are identified than the Applicant must be told upfront in order to avoid further expenses and loss of time pursuing a project location which in the opinion of the Game Commission is not compatible to the intended us of the Game Lands.

Prior to initiating any studies or proposed site selection monitoring on Game Lands, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will conduct a preliminary field and office review of the subject Game Lands area and adjacent areas in order to determine, potential impacts to the Game Lands. This initial review will be facilitated by the Commission's "Wind Energy Site Selection Questionnaire" accompanied with the applicable proposal request from the wind-energy development company.

In the event the Game Commission wishes to grant a more formal access to the wind-energy development company to allow for wind and related weather data collection, the wind energy applicant must first gain written approval for the placement of any towers and/or equipment used to monitor and collect wind and weather related data. This written approval shall come from the Bureau of Land Management's Real Estate Division in the form of a license, accompanied by the standard license provisions and fees as deemed appropriate.

Game Commission field and office reviews of wind-energy development proposals will include, but are not limited to, the following information review criteria:

Adjacent area(s) already have wind energy projects existing
The proposed project would cause an interior of the SGL
The proposed project would cause a large indenture of SGL
T/E species or related habitat impacts to the SGL and surrounding areas
Propagation areas located on the SGL
Known Historical or rare geological features located on the SGL
Major migratory flyways on, or within proximity to the proposed project area (bat and bird)
Important Bird Area's (I.B.A.'s) and Important Mammal Areas" (I.M.A.'s) on, or within proximity to the proposed project area
The proposed project will bisect the SGL
There are lands within the SGL which have Federal expenditures encumbered
There exists critical/unique wildlife habitats (wetlands, winter thermal, etc.) on the SGL
There already exists highly disturbed areas on the SGL (examples: strip mines, brown fields,
large fragmented forest zones, extensive ROW's and road structures, etc.)
Public opinions and local ordinances
Other State & Federal review guidelines
View shed impacts
SGL recreational use impacts (examples: access trails, biking hiking, horse back riding,
shooting ranges, etc.)
Partnership projects already implemented or planned for (examples: NWTF food plot,
volunteer grouse improvement project, USFW wetland project, etc.)
SGL habitat enhancement projects already implemented on the SGL (examples: food plots,
winter thermal plantings, share crop areas, etc.)
Proximity of proposed project to electric grid
Old growth forest areas designated on SGL
Identified "replacement lands" within proximity of the proposed project which exceed the
existing functions and values of those SGL areas proposed for the project, and which may be
available for acquisition