This project is located on the
Pinedale Anticline in western Wyoming. The project proponent was seeking
a permit from BLM for the development of several
oil and gas drilling sites. A full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was
required, including a complete analysis of the impacts on visual resources
using the BLM’s Visual Resource Management (VRM) system.
Ellsworth and Associates, landscape architects, inc. was contracted by the
proponent to conduct the visual analysis which included extensive use of
GIS visibility mapping, computer visual simulations, contrast rating, and
recommendations for visual mitigation strategies.
The visibility mapping was accomplished
by EALA using 10-meter Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data referenced to
several Key Observation Points (KOP’s).
Global Positioning System (GPS) technology was utilized to determine the
precise location of the KOP’s. A typical driver’s observation
height of 3.75 feet was established. ArcInfo GIS software was then used to
generate visibility maps for nine drilling sites.
On these maps, red represents areas of the landscape from which an individual
proposed oil and gas drilling site would be visible if 12-foot tall tanks
were used. Yellow represents additional areas from which the drilling site
would be visible if 20-foot tall tanks were used. Numerous visibility maps
were developed for each of the various proposed drilling sites.
Computer Visual Simulations were
required for the contrast rating analysis of three of the drilling sites
that were in close proximity to the existing
US highway. Eight KOP’s were established for which 12 computer visual
simulations were developed, showing the change in visual condition 25 years
into the future when revegetation would be complete.
Various development options were simulated to show how a change in location
of the drilling pad and facilities would affect the visual experience of
the passing motorist. Careful attention was paid to accurately simulating
the subtle changes in the appearance of the landforms required to construct
the access road and level drilling pad with successful revegetation 25 years
into the future.
EALA's work added
value to the Pinedale Anticline Oil and Gas project in the following
- Significantly decreased
costs to the oil and gas proponent by providing a clear and accurate
understanding of the project intent in the
and permitting process
- Made full use of the required BLM VRM system including detailed contrast
- Provided a shared visual reference for all stakeholders involved in the
project, including the public
- Provided valuable information in the design and planning phase of project
- Increased the level of cooperation and partnering between the project
proponent, BLM, and stakeholders
- Provided an example of excellence in visual resource analysis and management
for oil and gas projects in the intermountain west