The Wind Catcher Energy Connection Project was a proposed 360-mile, 765-kilovolt (kV) power line to transfer wind energy from the Twin Counties Substation within the currently-under-construction Invenergy windfarm in the Oklahoma Panhandle, to a Southwest Power Pool (SPP) interconnect near Tulsa, Oklahoma.
HBK's environmental team provided routing and siting support, public outreach and environmental services for the project.
We conducted county commissioner meetings within a study area of 18 counties in northern Oklahoma over a two-week period. The project team created and evaluated over 1,000 miles of study segments that were discussed during 17 public open house meetings held over two weeks in October 2017 and two weeks in the beginning of 2018. The public open house outreach efforts included landowner notification letters, newspaper advertising, landowner post-card reminders, and securing public open house venues and security.
HBK's public outreach efforts included fielding public comments and vendor requests from late October 2017 to July 2018. Public input collected during this time span was followed-up and organized using QMap, a Geographic Information System (GIS) database. QMap allowed HBK's environmental team to input, track and report nearly 2,250 outreach comments. This public input was used to improve routing and siting, foster two-way communication between stakeholders, assist right-of-way agent contact and negotiation, and initiate route change evaluations in coordination with project management.
HBK's environmental team performed an intensive desktop analysis on approximately 500 miles of study segments in preparation for helicopter surveys and ecological field surveys. The helicopter surveys identified environmentally sensitive areas and minimized the amount of survey permission required for ground-truthing activities. We reduced the areas requiring ecological field surveys by 74 percent. HBK's environmental team then proceeded to perform field surveys for wetlands, threatened and endangered species, and to identify raptor nests. Once surveys were completed, a wetland report and protected species report were developed.
Throughout the project, HBK's environmental team developed and maintained relationships with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tulsa Ecological Field Office, and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.