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Hartland Wind Farm engineers to begin work on habitat conservation plan this spring

Spending some of his childhood in northwestern North Dakota and then returning to visit his grandparents here, Curt Johnson remembers clearly the appeal the prairie wildlife held for him, whether he was watching killdeer or chasing gophers.

3/10/10 (Wed)


In The Kenmare News story about Hartland Wind Farm published February 24, 2010, the article stated a Habitat Conservation Plan had been completed for the project. Actually, the process of working on that plan with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is in the beginning stages. Hartland Wind Farm principal Curt Johnson explains below what engineers with the project are doing to establish and write the plan.


Spending some of his childhood in northwestern North Dakota and then returning to visit his grandparents here, Curt Johnson remembers clearly the appeal the prairie wildlife held for him, whether he was watching killdeer or chasing gophers.


Today, as a principal with Hartland Wind Farm, safeguarding the prairie landscape and the wildlife species remains important for Johnson. That’s one reason he and other personnel working on the wind farm project made it a priority to discuss potential environmental impacts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the project is under development.


“We’re cognizant of the environment here, as our landowners are,” said Johnson. “We wanted to be ahead of the curve on this.”


Extensive discussions about the scope and magnitude of the Hartland Wind Farm project have been held with USFWS personnel from the Mountain-Prairie Region Office, leading to the development of a habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the project, which is projected to be completed in about 18 months. “This is completely voluntary and there is no federal mandate at this time to do this,” Johnson said. “In fact, this will be one of the first HCPs prepared in the state of North Dakota.”


The HCP will involve 10 to 12 months of data collection, primarily during the spring, summer and fall seasons and taking migration and growing periods into account. Native plant and animal species growing and living within the site area will be documented and studied for potential impact by the wind farm. Water and air quality issues will also be reviewed and included in the HCP.


Environmental engineers from Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson of Bismarck, already under contract with the wind farm project, will coordinate the work with USFWS representatives, with about six months planned to analyze the data and write the HCP after field studies are finished. Johnson noted additional engineers or other experts may be brought into the process as necessary, based on the results of the assessment.


Johnson said the HCP will not be specific to any particular species of plant or animal, although careful attention will be paid to potential impacts the wind farm project has on the migration patterns of endangered whooping cranes, which are known to cross the project area during both spring and fall migratory flights.


“The HCP covers the full spectrum of the plants and animals out there and provides a comprehensive site assessment,” he said. “It will give us the information we need to make certain we don’t have any impact. If we find we do have an impact, we’ll construct a plan to avoid that impact.”


He continued, “And, if we find something, then we’ll know where it occurs and we’ll know under what conditions it occurs, and we’ll look for those conditions in future development of the project.”


Work on the HCP will be concentrated on Hartland Wind Farm’s first 400-500 megawatt phase, based in the southeast corner of the project area around Berthold. “We have our preliminary engineering mostly done for that first phase,” said Johnson, “and we pretty much know where we want the turbines to go, where the underground cables need to run, and where we’d like to build the substations.”


As the next three phases of the 2,000 megawatt Hartland Wind Farm are scoped and planned, engineers will continue the analysis, documentation and monitoring necessary for the HCP. “It never really stops,” Johnson said. “This will be an ongoing process through the life of the project.”


He added that the project’s engineers would be prepared to make changes necessary in the future should any negative impacts from the wind farm be determined.


Johnson described the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials with whom he’d met as extremely supportive of Hartland Wind Farm. “We’re both benevolent organizations,” he said, “trying to do the right thing.”


Anyone with further questions about Hartland Wind Farm is welcome to contact Johnson or principal Craig Swenson at Denali Energy at 1-877-557-1031 or visit the project’s website at