PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State and federal officials have accepted a wind project’s plan to count sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens the next two years on their dancing grounds in parts of rural northeastern South Dakota.
With those clearances in place, the state Public Utilities Commission gave final approval Tuesday on one condition that Crowned Ridge Wind still needed to meet.
That means NextEra Energy can put up as many as 130 turbines across about 53,000 acres in Grant and Codington counties. The $400 million project could produce up to 300 megawatts of electricity.
Miles Schumacher, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing the developer, said NextEra worked with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a proposal for lek monitoring.
PUC analyst Darren Kearney said GFP staff didn’t have any concerns with the plan. “Therefore (PUC) staff doesn’t have any concerns,” he said.
Kearney added that he wasn’t aware of any intervenors’ comments on lek monitoring or credentials of the independent third party being hired to watch dancing grounds.
The three commissioners praised the plan and the outside organization. The monitoring is intended to see whether development of the turbines affects the two native upland species.
“I just appreciate the work that was done here in preparation for it,” commissioner Gary Hanson said.
Commissioner Kristie Fiegen said the data “would be very useful” for the Game, Fish and Parks Department. “I look forward to seeing that,” she said.
Commissioner Chris Nelson said the study needed to be done and “done well.” He said there’s a control area that he thought would be important for comparisons and described the third party’s credentials as “absolutely outstanding.”
The full docket for the project is here.