Proposal may threaten migratory bird corridor and disturb recently discovered prehistoric site

MADISON — Alliant Energy’s proposed Cassville coal plant may harm a sensitive national migratory bird corridor, disturb a recently discovered prehistoric site, and emit high levels of pollution according to comments posted to the Public Service Commission (PSC) Web site last week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state agencies. The agencies’ concerns warrant greater analysis in the Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed plant according to the comments.

In its response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) find that the document understates the importance of the proposed coal plant’s impact on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The DOI notes that “the DEIS fails to recognize and adequately describe the continental significance of the Refuge and fails to adequately address the potential impacts of the project.” The FWS calls this refuge “the most significant migratory corridor for waterfowl, shorebirds and other species in the Midwest if not the entire continent.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites “environmental concerns with the proposed project,” and calls for a more detailed analysis of the proposed plant’s global warming, mercury and water pollution in its review of the DEIS.

Beyond citing environmental issues, officials found cultural concerns in the coal plant proposal. In a letter posted to the PSC Web site last week, the PSC notifies the Wisconsin Historical Society that a cultural analysis of the proposed power plant site found “early Woodland period artifacts indicative of campsite use.”

This culturally significant discovery may require either leaving the area undisturbed or excavating the site and cataloging the archeological artifacts–a timely process that might delay construction at the site.

“The comments submitted by the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the recent discovery of a culturally significant site at the proposed location all add to a growing list of diverse concerns regarding this coal plant proposal,” said Katie Nekola, energy program director at Clean Wisconsin. “Building this coal plant when we need to reduce global warming pollution would be a mistake. Building it over a prehistoric site immediately adjacent to a national wildlife and fish refuge would be a disaster.”