Historic Sites Raise Concerns About Siting of Renewable Energy Infrasturcture

The view east from the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. Park advocates and members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, whose descendants were victims of the 1864 massacre, are concerned that a massive Xcel Energy project could infringe on the “cultural landscape” by placing towers and transmission lines in the viewshed. (Provided by Matt LeBlanc to the Colorado Sun)

The Colorado Sun has a story about wind turbine and power line development near historic sites, including Sand Creek, Camp Amache, and the Minidoka National Historic Site.

This article from Boise State Public Radio is about the Lava Ridge Energy Project which is on BLM land near the Minidoka National Historic Site. Conceivably different DOI agencies should be able to work this out.

This quote is about the Sand Creek Massacre site:

“It isn’t like any other national historic site, probably anywhere, because of the atrocities that went on there,” he said. “So when we as the tribes go back to the site, we’re going back to a place of sorrow, because that time era, and the massacre itself, was basically the beginning of historical trauma for our tribal people.

“When we go back to that site to reflect, to commemorate, to mourn, to try to heal,” he added, “seeing some big power lines there doesn’t help with that, aesthetically.”

The debate over how close is too close reflects a burgeoning issue nationwide as proposed construction of large-scale renewable energy projects like wind and solar arrays, key tools in the fight against climate change, bump sometimes uncomfortably against cultural landmarks.


And while she acknowledges that the NPS has no control over what happens beyond its borders, she notes that ever since Congress authorized the area as a national historic site in 2000, nothing has interfered with the cultural and educational experience.

“There were periods when it looked like oil and gas development was imminent, and large scale agriculture could make an impact on the viewshed,” Roberts said. “But none of that has happened in all these years.”

The National Parks Conservation Association, a nonprofit that describes its mission as protecting and preserving the nation’s parks, two weeks ago submitted a letter to the Colorado PUC, as well as Xcel’s siting consultant, laying out its concerns about the viewshed and communication with tribal interests. In addition to the Xcel project, the NPCA also is sensitive to potential wind power construction of towering turbines that rise higher than transmission towers, wrote NPCA Colorado senior program director Tracy Coppola.

Some park advocates recommend that transmission line towers — Xcel estimates the single-pole structures rising from 105 to 140 feet, depending on topography — should be at least 12 miles from its boundaries. In calculating that distance, the Sand Creek Massacre Foundation referenced a 2013 National Park Service-commissioned natural resource assessment, then adapted that report’s findings with regard to the viewshed to take into account the height of the towers.

Currently, Xcel said, it is evaluating locations for the new transmission lines 4 to 8 miles from the site’s boundary, but also will consider other options. “And that’s all part of our analysis,” said project manager Heather Brickey. “Our goal is to find the best route that meets the needs of the project and also meets the needs of the community.”

The NPS assessment identifies the cultural landscapes and viewshed as “fundamental resources and values for the site.”

“From a cultural and historical perspective, the views are not just about the scenery, but rather an important way to better understand the massacre at Sand Creek Massacre NHS,” the report said. “Visualizing the massacre as it played out on the landscape is a critical part of the visitor experience.”

1 thought on “Historic Sites Raise Concerns About Siting of Renewable Energy Infrasturcture”

  1. Weeds, erosion, sight pollution: utilities are not your friends.

    In 2017 a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks study determined a single wind farm kills between 120 to 397 bats annually or about nine bats per turbine. Today, public lands are at risk to wind farm developers.

    The average cost of a household photovoltaic system has dropped below $3/watt or less than $12,810 before tax credits are factored in and leaving the grid has never been easier so anyone who can afford to it should do it now. Don’t tie your system to the grid but if you use it as a backup keep your electricity completely invisible to the utility that reads your meter. Microgrid technologies are destined to encourage self-reliance, enhance tribal sovereignty, free communities from electric monopolies and net-metering only gives control back to utilities enabled by moral hazard.

    The United States’ longest war wasn’t in Afghanistan; it was against Indigenous Americans and ran from about 1785 to at least 1973.


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