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    Source:  Barbara Durkin

    Bald eagles face redoubled threat  

    Source:  Barbara Durkin | Letters, Massachusetts

    RE: Bald Eagle set to hit milestone: U.S. likely to end endangered symbol, by John Donnelly

    Dear Mr. Donnelly:

    I am responding to your contribution in today’s Boston Globe as a citizen concerned about the impending court-ordered deadline that mandates that US Fish and Wildlife make the determination as to the status of our national symbol, the Bald Eagle, and if it should be taken off of the Endangered Species List.

    The Bald Eagle would accordingly be placed in double jeopardy, as wind towers placed in migratory paths are killing unacceptable numbers of birds. This fact is acknowledged by avian experts, Congress, and many wildlife organizations. This problem is inadequately addressed as wind tower siting guidelines, created by USFWS/DOI in response to this problem, are being ignored as are the federal laws that protect endangered species killed by wind turbines.

    The Cape Wind project, proposed and sited by a private developer, would be located in an endangered species habitat referred to as the North Atlantic Flyway, an Important Bird Area, Nantucket Sound.

    The currently endangered (Massachusetts) Bald Eagle is not referenced in Mass Audubon’s comments to the USACE or to the Minerals Management Service of the Department of the Interior.

    The Bald Eagle’s presence in Nantucket Sound is, however, referenced by Mass Audubon on their website:

    During our two crossings of Nantucket Sound, we have a good chance of seeing … the largest concentration of overwintering bald eagles in New England.

    I ask that you consider the supplemental information that I am providing as it spells out that the Bald Eagle is under greater threat than being taken off the endangered species list. The Bald Eagle, and many other endangered species, are threatened by wind towers proposed for the wrong location, Nantucket Sound, by a private developer, Cape Wind.

    The currently endangered Bald Eagle should not be removed from the endangered species list by USFWS. This important decision is to be made, according to your contribution, by court order, on or before Friday, June 29, 2007.

    Endangered species protections are being ignored while endangered birds are being killed in unacceptable numbers by wind turbines.

    Congressman Nick J. Rahall III, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, has recently stated, “wind projects are on a regular basis in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act, yet no enforcement action is being taken.”

    Any action taken to remove the Bald Eagle from the endangered species list should be considered as placing our national symbol in double jeopardy. I’m quite concerned, Mr. Donnelly, that bald eagles and other endangered species are “set to hit wind turbines” in Nantucket Sound.

    Thank You,

    Barbara Durkin
    Northboro, MA

    Supplemental Information

    Mass Audubon comment to the USACE on the Cape Wind DEIS:

    “This area of Nantucket Sound is within the eastern U.S. migratory bird flyway and hosts high concentrations of wintering waterfowl, and is in close proximity to nesting, foraging and staging areas for federally endangered roseate terns and threatened piping plovers. Substantial numbers of federally endangered sea turtles and protected marine mammal species frequent the proposed project site. In addition, the proposed site provides habitat for federally regulated finfish and shellfish populations.”

    Mass Audubon:

    “First, for some avian species, such as the Roseate Tern or Piping Plover, a single death as a result of the project could be regarded as an unacceptable level of impact under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.”

    Mass Audubon on the Roseate Tern:

    “In 2001, 1,826 pairs of Roseate Tern, representing half of the entire North American Population of this species, nested in Buzzard’s Bay. During the breeding season the adults of this species are known to forage heavily between Wood’s Hole and Nantucket . From July to September even a higher percentage, perhaps as much as 75% of the entire North American population stages at the following beaches in Nantucket Sound – South Beach, Chatham; Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, Chatham; Great Point, Nantucket, Cape Pogue, on Martha’s Vineyard, and a variety of smaller beaches between Hyannis and Mashpee.”

    Bald Eagle:

    “In New England, however, the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut still list the species as Endangered due to the low numbers of breeding pairs in their respective states (MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 2000) …

    “The Bald Eagle is presently protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Lacey Act. It is listed as a “threatened” species in the lower 48 states. Although Bald Eagles have made an encouraging comeback throughout the U.S.A. since the early 60s, they continue to be harassed, injured and killed by guns, traps, power lines, windmills, poisons, contaminants and destruction of habitat. Public awareness about their plight, strict enforcement of protective laws, preservation of their habitat, and support for environmental conservation programs can assure a healthy and secure future for the U.S.A.’s majestic and symbolic national bird.”

    Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program of the Commonwealth of MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife:

    The Haliaeetus leucocephalus (bird, sea eagle, white head) or the Massachusetts Endangered Bald Eagle range:

    In Massachusetts, Bald Eagles utilize the Quabbin Reservior, part of the Connecticut River, and the “Assawompsett Pond system throughout the year as both nesting and wintering habitat. Bald Eagles also overwinter along the Merrimack River and along the coast of Cape Cod, Buzzard’s Bay and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Historically, the Bald Eagle bred throughout most of North America . Today, it is recolonizing much of its historic range where suitable habitat still exists.

    Mass Audubon’s testimony on Cape Wind to the USACE:

    The President of Mass Audubon, Laura A. Johnson, submitted Mass Audubon’s comments on the Cape Wind DEIS on February 23, 2005, to Ms. Karen Kirk Adams, the Cape Wind Energy Project Manager U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District – Reference File No. NAE-2004-338-1, EOEA No. 12643:

    “By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the DEIS, Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year.”

    USFWS is the federal regulator with oversight over the Cape Wind application:

    Mass Audubon is not the “regulatory agency” in the Cape Wind permitting process, this responsibility falls to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The Endangered Species Act requires the Minerals Management Service, the permit granting authority for alternative use of the Outer Continental Shelf, to go through a formal process (called Section 7 consultation) with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will analyze in detail the impact of the Cape Wind project on federally listed species like the Roseate Tern, the Piping Plover and the Bald Eagle.

    Cape Wind, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, has not produced the “baseline” information that NE FWS has been seeking regarding bird life in Nantucket Sound since 2002. USFWS and NE Regional Director Michael Bartlett’s scoping comments on the Cape Wind project to Minerals Management Service agency of the Department of the Interior of July 11, 2006:

    “Had the applicant conducted the three year radar study to identify the spatial and temporal use of the airspace by avian species and the other supporting studies recommended in Service scoping comments, the information needs for those resources would be largely satisfied. However, they have not, and it will now take three additional years to collect the necessary baseline information identified in our previous scoping comments and in our comments on the Corps DEIS. Accordingly, we recommended that MMS devise a schedule for the NEPA process based on the time it will take the applicant to collect the data necessary to address scoping comments dating back to 2002 and data deficiencies identified in comments on the Corps DEIS in 2005.”

    Letter by Michael Boyd, President of Californians for Renewable Energy (see Chris Metinko, Inside Bay Area, 4/24/07, below)

    To the Editor, USA Today (unpublished):

    “Cape Wind is about the blood of eagles not politics as usual with Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly as the USA Today’s recent coverage seems to suggest. Siting wind turbines in a major bird fly way chops large hawks and eagles up like large birdy blenders. I know about this because my organization is suing the County of Alameda California over its approval of Conditional Use Permits for thousands wind turbines located in the Altamont Pass Wind Resources Area that are killing thousands of these birds every year. My organization CAlifornians for Renewable Energy, Inc. (CARE) is taking on the wind industry because the blood of eagles gives wind energy a black eye. Wind energy is all about location. Don’t forget Enron got started in the wind industry.”

    Mike Boyd, President, CARE (Californians for Renewable Energy), Altamont, CA:

    “Altamont is seen as a black eye in the industry nationwide and worldwide” due to the bird deaths,” said Julia Levin, California policy director for the National Audubon Society.

    California A.G. Bill Locklear has responded regarding the legal implications of the deaths of thousands of birds in this migratory flyway with endangered species present at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area APWRA. This project is the harbinger, in my view, of what we can expect if Cape Wind is constructed in an endangered species habit and migratory flyway as is Nantucket Sound.

    A.G. of California Bill Lockyer, letter to the Almeda County Board of Supervisors, July 6, 2005:

    The ongoing harm to protected bird species at the APWRA [Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area] is serious and unacceptable.

    Because the APWRA is the largest of its kind in the world, what happens here could set an important precedent for how these issues are addressed elsewhere in California and the United States.

    [Is “elsewhere” Nantucket Sound?]

    From “Selling the Wind”: National Audubon, on wind tower siting:

    “The fear is that with all the new wind farms rolling out, there is a new Altamont being created today,” says Greg Butcher, National Audubon’s director of bird conservation. “But because we don’t have the data, we just don’t know about it.

    “The exact reasons for the improvement are a matter of debate, but collisions seem far fewer when wind farms keep out of major flyways and give a wide berth to rich prey sites like Altamont and attractive bird habitats such as wetlands. Some researchers speculate that modern technology also helps reduce the risks, since newer turbines allow the same amount of electricity to be generated with far fewer turbines.”

    Chris Metinko, Inside Bay Area, 4/24/07:

    According to a study released in 2004 by the California Energy Commission, an estimated 1,700 to 4,700 birds die each year by flying into whirling turbine blades or being electrocuted by transmission lines that thread through the 50,000-acre Altamont Wind Resource Area.

    The fatalities: 116 golden eagles, 300 red-tailed hawks, 333 American kestrels and 380 burrowing owls, the study found.

    A lawsuit filed against the county in October by the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Californians for Renewable Energy and four other local Audubon chapters challenged the county’s decision to renew permits for Altamont Pass wind turbines. A subsequent settlement forces the wind industry to commit to a 50 percent reduction in raptor deaths by November 2009, and remove the deadliest turbines and continuing winter shutdowns of the wind machines.

    That settlement assumes there are 1,300 golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and burrowing owl deaths in that Livermore area each year.

    Wind Tower Siting Guidelines,
    United States Department of the Interior
    Bureau of Land Management
    Washington, D.C. 20240
    October 16, 2002

    Although land use plans combined with appropriate levels of environmental analysis will be used to assess individual wind energy project proposals, the BLM’s overall wind energy policy is to minimize negative impacts to the natural, cultural, and visual resources on the public lands. Negative impacts can be minimized by avoiding special management areas with land use restrictions, avoiding major avian (bird) migration routes and areas of critical habitat for species of concern , establishing siting criteria to minimize soil disturbance and erosion on steep slopes, utilizing visual resource management guidelines to assist in proper siting of facilities, avoiding significant historic and cultural resource sites, and mitigating conflicts with other uses of the public lands.

    The Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lead federal regulatory reviewing agencies for Cape Wind, issued guidelines for siting wind towers in 2003:

    • Avoid placing turbines in documented locations of any species of wildlife, fish, or plant protected under the ESA.
    • Avoid locating turbines in known local bird-migration pathways or in areas where birds are highly concentrated, unless mortality risk is low (e.g., birds rarely enter the rotor-swept area). Examples of high-concentration areas for birds are wetlands, state or federal refuges, private duck clubs, staging areas, rookeries, roosts, riparian areas along streams, and landfills.
    • Avoid known daily-movement flyways (e.g., between roosting and feeding areas) and areas with a high incidence of fog, mist, low cloud ceilings, and low visibility.

    The Sierra Club:

    “… opposes development in protected areas such as national and state parks, national monuments, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, designated roadless areas, critical habitat and designated habitat recovery areas for wildlife, and areas of cultural significance, sacred lands, and other areas that have special scenic, natural or environmental value. In these areas, it is inappropriate to build wind turbines, roads, transmission lines, or any other structure related to wind development.”

    NOT APPROPRIATE SITES
    The Sierra Club will usually oppose wind development in areas that are Not Appropriate (all the categories below include prior-designated or prior-proposed areas):

    National parks, Marine preserves or parks, State parks, National monuments,Wilderness areas, Wildlife refuges, Federally-designated roadless areas, Critical habitat for Rare, Threatened or Endangered Species or habitat for indigenous species critical to a region or state’s biodiversity

    Donald Michael Fry, Director, Pesticides and Birds Program, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), May 1, 2007:

    Identification of important bird areas
    These areas should be off-limits to wind development unless adequate preventative measures can be discovered to minimize incidental take of protected bird species: sites requiring special scrutiny include sites that are frequented by federally listed endangered species of birds and bats, in known bird migration pathways, areas where birds are highly concentrated, and areas that have landscape features known to attract large numbers of raptors.

    Greenpeace:

    “Greenpeace opposes building wind farms on sensitive bird habitat&nbsp…”

    Mass Audubon:

    Unless it can be shown that the construction and operation of wind turbines would not significantly lower the habitat value or pose undue mortality risks for wildlife at a proposed site, we recommend, that wind energy facilities avoid … [among other locations] sites documented as important habitat for state and federally listed endangered species …

    My letter sent to the Boston Globe contributor Michael Levenson:

    Dear Mr. Levenson:

    With regard to your below copied contribution in today’s Boston Globe, 8/20/06, “Report finds wind farm plan illegal”

    Mass Audubon’s Draft Environmental Impact DEIS comment to the USACE attributes the very same characteristics of the presence of endangered wildlife that exist in Nantucket Sound as in Buzzard’s Bay. It is inconsistent that Mass Audubon would approve on a “preliminary” basis, the Cape Wind project while attributing the same characteristics to Buzzards Bay where endangered species are given optimum consideration by Stephen Pritchard, Massachusetts secretary of environmental affairs, who mentioned federal protections of the species as a concern regarding the Buzzard’s Bay wind tower proposal. The endangered species of Buzzards Bay and of Nantucket Sound are identical. However, Mass Audubon has offered their preliminary approval of Cape Wind provided that there is an agreement to create a long term environmental monitoring contract (contract assignee?) if this project application is approved that is worth multi-millions of dollars. MA Audubon in their testimony to the USACE lists the same federally protected species exist in Nantucket Sound as Stephen Pritchard has noted exist in Buzzard’s Bay as an “issue.”

    Shouldn’t Stephen Pritchard, Massachusetts’ secretary of environmental affairs, hold Nantucket Sound, with its documented endangered species, to as high a threshold as Buzzards Bay?

    Thank You,

    Barbara Durkin
    Northboro, MA

    The Boston Globe article to which the previous correspondence is referenced:

    Boston Globe, 8/20/06, Report finds wind farm plan illegal, by Michael Levenson:

    A Romney administration report has concluded that a proposal by a prominent Boston developer to build up to 120 wind turbines off Buzzards Bay would violate state law and could threaten an endangered species of bird.

    The report is a setback for the developer, Jay M. Cashman, who unveiled plans for the wind farm in May and said he had hoped to see the turbines anchored to the ocean floor and generating clean energy by 2011.

    In his 23-page finding, Stephen R. Pritchard, the state’s secretary of environmental affairs, said his office “strongly support[s] the development of renewable energy” in Massachusetts.

    “Like my predecessors, I firmly believe that an ambitious program of renewable energy development, including wind power, is in the interest of the people of Massachusetts,” Pritchard wrote.

    However, Pritchard wrote that Cashman’s project presents a number of problems, which could doom it among state regulators who would eventually need to sign off on the plans.

    “First, the project as proposed is not [permitted] under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act,” Pritchard wrote in the report, dated Aug. 9. The Ocean Sanctuaries Act, a 35-year-old state law, forbids the “building of any structure on the seabed or under the subsoil” as well as “the construction or operation of offshore or floating electric generating stations,” in the Cape and Islands Ocean Sanctuary. The sanctuary ranges from Marshfield to Race Point in Provincetown , and includes the area of Buzzards Bay, off Fairhaven, Gosnold, and Dartmouth, where Cashman plans to build.

    “The proponent therefore proceeds at risk of denial of required permits,”
    Pritchard wrote.

    Pritchard also raised concerns that Cashman’s proposed location “is both within and proximate to the breeding, nesting and foraging habitats of the roseate tern, a state and federally protected endangered species.” Echoing concerns raised by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and state wildlife officials, Pritchard wrote, “it is uncertain whether avian mortality and habitat impact could be adequately mitigated.”

    “The project proponent,” Pritchard’s report stated, “faces a high threshold in addressing these issues.”

    Vanessa Gulati, a spokeswoman for the executive office of environmental affairs, said the report leaves open the possibility that Cashman could seek a change in the Ocean Sanctuaries Act. Cashman could not be reached for comment yesterday.

    In the past, Cashman has said that he is eager to work with officials at all levels of government to come to an agreement on the wind farm. He contends that his design – which calls for turbines that would reach heights of 450 feet and be located as close as two miles offshore – would produce half of Cape Cod’s electricity.

    Representative William M. Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat and critic of the plan, said yesterday that Pritchard’s concerns are “kind of bureaucratic code words for `You have a very environmentally difficult project, but if you want to go ahead, knowing there’s a strong chance you’re going to be turned down, it’s up to you.”

    “My guess is this developer, judging by his involvement in projects elsewhere in Massachusetts, is probably going to keep pressing ahead anyway,” Straus said. Cashman’s company built parts of the Big Dig, and is now constructing the Greenbush commuter rail line.

    Senator Mark C. Montigny , a New Bedford Democrat and critic of the Buzzards Bay wind farm, called the findings “music to my ears” because they mean the project would need approval by the Legislature.

    “I’m more confident that the developer will be forced through a number of hurdles, which will get us to a more positive, balanced development,” Montigny said.

    New Bedford mayor Scott W. Lang, another citric of the Cashman plan, said the concerns raised in the report show Cashman’s design is too big for Buzzards Bay .

    “I can’t imagine that the report completely eliminated the idea that wind power might have some practical purpose down in our area,” Lang said yesterday. “But if you saw the largesse of this proposal, well, I haven’t met too many people who looked at it and said it makes any sense in the area we’re talking about.”

    Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Globe staff reporter David Abel contributed to this report.

    The Providence Journal, January 10, 2006, Strong Case Against Cape Wind:

    I would like to offer my response to Edward Achorn’s Jan. 3 Commentary column, “Curb your environmentalism”: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental lawyer who recognizes, appropriately, that not all locations are suitable for an industrial-scale wind facility.

    The Nantucket Sound region is a fragile marine environment on the active list under consideration for sanctuary status by the federal government. Nantucket Sound exists in the North Atlantic Flyway. It is a habitat to endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

    The Department of the Interior, the lead permitting agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued guidelines for siting wind towers in 2003:

    • Avoid placing turbines in documented locations of any species of wildlife, fish, or plant protected under the ESA.
    • Avoid locating turbines in known local bird-migration pathways or in areas where birds are highly concentrated, unless mortality risk is low (e.g., birds rarely enter the rotor-swept area). Examples of high-concentration areas for birds are wetlands, state or federal refuges, private duck clubs, staging areas, rookeries, roosts, riparian areas along streams, and landfills.
    • Avoid known daily-movement flyways (e.g., between roosting and feeding areas) and areas with a high incidence of fog, mist, low cloud ceilings, and low visibility.

    Avoid siting wind towers in Nantucket Sound, in other words.

    Barbara Durkin
    Northboro, Mass.

    The Hill, May 23, 2007, Keep “Cape Wind” out of Nantucket Sound:

    I am in favor of H.R. 2337 introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), as it is a bill that supports observance and enforcement of important federal laws that provide endangered species’ protections. The California Energy Commission estimated 1,700 to 4,700 birds die each year by flying into whirling turbine blades or being electrocuted by transmission lines that thread through the 50,000-acre Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area.

    Greg Butcher, the National Audubon Society’s Director of Bird Conservation, has stated, “The fear is that with all the new wind farms rolling out, there is a new Altamont being created today. The exact reasons for the improvement are a matter of debate, but collisions seem far fewer when wind farms keep out of major flyways and give a wide berth to rich prey sites like Altamont and attractive bird habitats such as wetlands.”

    Nantucket Sound is within the eastern U.S. migratory bird flyway. It is a nesting foraging and staging area for federally endangered birds. It hosts the largest concentration of over-wintering bald eagles in New England. Substantial numbers of federally endangered sea turtles and protected marine mammal species are present. Nantucket Sound is also an Essential Fish Habitat, with federally regulated finfish and shellfish populations. …

    Nantucket Sound is a place for “Cape Wind” to keep out of, as it is a major flyway and certainly a wetland.

    -~From Barbara Durkin, Northboro, Mass.

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