Resource Documents: Washington (14 items)
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Home Range and Resource Selection by GPS-Monitored Adult Golden Eagles in the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion: Implications for Wind Power Development
Author: Watson, James; Duff, Andrew; and Davies, Robert
ABSTRACT: Recent national interest in golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) conservation and wind energy development prompted us to investigate golden eagle home range and resource use in the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion (CPE) in Washington and Oregon. From 2004 to 2013, we deployed satellite transmitters on adult eagles (n = 17) and monitored their movements for up to 7 years. We used the Brownian bridge movement model (BBMM) to estimate range characteristics from global position system (GPS) fixes and flight paths of 10 eagles, and modeled resource selection probability functions (RSPFs). Multi-year home ranges of resident eagles were large (99% volume contour; x̄ = 245:7 km², SD = 370.2 km²) but were onethird the size (x̄ = 82:3 km², SD = 94.6 km²) and contained half as many contours when defined by 95% isopleths. Annual ranges accounted for 66% of multi-year range size. During the breeding season (16 Jan–15 Aug), eagles occupied ranges that were less fragmented, about half as large, and largely contained within ranges they used outside the breeding season (x̄ overlap = 82.5%, SD = 19.0). Eagles selected upper slopes, rugged terrain, and ridge tops that appear to reflect underlying influences of prey, deflective wind currents, and proximity to nests. Fix distribution predicted by our resource selection model and that of 4 eagles monitored independently in the CPE were highly correlated (rs = 0.992). Our findings suggest conservative landscape management strategies addressing development in lower-elevation montane and shrub-steppe/ grassland ecosystems can best define golden eagle ranges using exclusive 12.8-km buffers around nests. Less conservative strategies based on 9.6-km buffers must include identification and management of upper slopes, ridge-tops, and areas of varied terrain defined by predictive models or GPS telemetry. For both strategies, high, year-round intensity of eagle flight and perch use within 50% volume contours (average 3.2 km from nests) due to nest centricity may dramatically increase the probability of eagle conflict with wind turbines in core areas as evidenced by eagle turbine strikes that studies have documented within and beyond this zone.
JAMES W. WATSON, ANDREW A. DUFF, and ROBERT W. DAVIES
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, WA, USA
The Journal of Wildlife Management 78(6):1012–1021; 2014; DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.745
Reply Brief of Petitioners Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area v. Bonneville Power Administration
Author: Friends of the Columbia Gorge
To try to justify its violations of NEPA (including a failure to consider any alternatives besides the Applicant’s proposal and a failure to take a hard look at the Project’s environmental impacts), BPA leans upon the slender reed of lacking direct siting authority over the Project’s wind turbines. But the inescapable reality is that BPA evaluated the proposed wind turbines and the requested interconnection to its power grid together as components of the single action alternative in the FEIS. Moreover, BPA has conceded that if it were to deny the interconnection the turbines would not be built. Accordingly, BPA was required to comply fully with NEPA to inform its decision whether to approve or deny the interconnection.
Ultimately, BPA has authority to say “no”—to the interconnection, and thereby to the entire Project—and NEPA requires it to make an informed decision and thus potentially avoid or minimize harm to the environment. BPA’s litigation position posits an alternative reality in which the agency did not evaluate the wind turbines and interconnection together as a single action, and did not admit that the interconnection is a necessary element of the Project without which the wind turbines cannot be built. The analyses adopted in the FEIS—not the agency’s current litigation position—must be the focus of this Court’s review.
BPA’s arguments rely almost entirely on cases in which federal actions were completely distinct from non-federal actions—rather than intertwined, as the proposed wind turbines and interconnection are here—and on knocking down straw-man arguments that Friends does not make. The fact that BPA can cite no case where a court upheld an EIS that considered only a single action alternative involving several undefined variables underscores the unprecedented way BPA evaded NEPA’s express requirements.
Although BPA may “believe that the Project will be implemented in an environmentally responsible manner,” it failed to follow the procedures NEPA requires to draw an informed conclusion about likely harm from the proposed Project as compared to reasonable alternatives. BPA asks this Court to condone a NEPA analysis that in essence evaluated only a single, worst-case alternative and that lacked any evaluation whether the proposed mitigation measures could effectively reduce or eliminate harm.
Where an agency could prevent environmental harm, as BPA could do here by denying the requested interconnection, NEPA and this Court’s precedents require the agency’s decision to be fully informed and to include a complete understanding of the effects of reasonable alternatives—even alternatives not within BPA’s jurisdiction. An evaluation showing that changes to the number, locations, capacities, heights, or other details of the proposed wind turbines would cause significantly less harm to birds, bats, or scenic values might have led BPA to deny the requested interconnection. BPA’s uninformed decision violates NEPA and its procedures for ensuring informed, democratic decisionmaking.
Sept. 26, 2016, Docket No. 15-72788, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Download original document: “Reply Brief of Petitioners Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area v. Bonneville Power Administration”
Author: Friends of the Columbia Gorge
This letter is written on behalf of Friends of the Columbia Gorge (“Friends”) and Save Our Scenic Area (“SOSA”). Friends and SOSA are nonprofit conservation advocacy organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the resources of the Columbia River Gorge region. Friends’ and SOSA’s members live in the communities and use and enjoy the resources that would be affected by the Whistling Ridge Energy Project (“Project” or “WREP”), proposed by Whistling Ridge Energy LLC (“WRE” or “Applicant”).
As organizations and individuals interested in the Whistling Ridge project and the future of the Columbia Gorge, we write today to ask that Bonneville Power Administratio (“BPA”) deny the generation interconnection request (“GIR”) sought by WRE.
In addition, for the reasons explained below, BPA must prepare and issue a supplemental environmental impact statement (“EIS”) for the Project prior to making a decision on the interconnection request. Given that the basic Project details, likely impacts, and mitigation measures have yet to be disclosed by the Applicant and have yet to be reviewed or decided by the State of Washington, BPA should coordinate with the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (“EFSEC”) in the preparation and issuance of a supplemental EIS. …
- The Proposal
- The Project Site
- Procedural History
- The Current Status of the Project
2. The project details for the proposed Whistling Ridge Project are currently unknown, making any generation interconnection approval premature and inappropriate.
3. BPA should not act on the interconnection request until the System Impact Study is revised and updated.
4. Because the Applicant concedes that the Whistling Ridge Energy Project is not economically viable as approved by Governor Gregoire, BPA should deny the interconnection request.
5. Because the Project has been substantially changed by the decisions of EFSEC and Governor Gregoire, BPA must prepare and issue for public comment a supplemental EIS.
6. A supplemental EIS, jointly prepared by BPA and EFSEC, is necessary to review the numerous unresolved and undecided aspects of the Project.
7. The cumulative impacts analysis in the 2011 final EIS must be updated in a supplemental EIS.
- Because installed wind energy capacity has increased dramatically since 2011, the cumulative impacts analysis in the FEIS is outdated and inadequate.
- The cumulative impacts analysis in the FEIS must be supplemented to evaluate the cumulative impacts of several large-scale transmission and energy projects (other than wind projects) within the analysis area.
8. BPA should evaluate whether the dramatic increases in regional wind energy capacity and transmission capacity since the 2011 FEIS affect the stated purposes and need for the Whistling Ridge Project.
9. An SEIS is required to evaluate new information regarding impacts to wildlife and to fully disclose the Project’s impacts to wildlife.
- Noise Impacts
- Failure to Quantify Impacts to Birds and Bats from Mortality Caused by Blade Strikes
- Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles
- Failure to Evaluate Relative Abundance of Sensitive-Status Species
- Failure to Include Critical Information on Impacts to Bats
- Mitigation Measures for Adverse Impacts to Wildlife
- BPA should review the most recent science on wildlife impacts.
10. The Project and proposed interconnection require permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
11. An SEIS is required to evaluate new information regarding impacts to scenic resources and to fully disclose the Project’s impacts to scenic resources.
12. BPA should review recent studies on the adverse effects of wind energy development on human health and on the human environment.
Download original document: “Comments to Bonneville Power Administration – Friends & SOSA – Whistling Ridge energy project”
Katey Grange, Environmental Lead
Amy M. Gardner, Project Manager
Bonneville Power Administration
WRE Project (DOE/EIS-0419)
Nathan Baker, Staff Attorney, Friends of the Columbia Gorge
Gary K. Kahn, Attorney for Friends of the Columbia Gorge
J. Richard Arambaru, Attorney for Save Our Scenic Area
Author: Friends of the Columbia Gorge; Save Our Scenic Area
REPLY TO STATEMENTS OF THE CASE
The Applicant argues that it “stipulated that no more than 38 turbines would be constructed” as part of the Project. WRE Br. at 5. This is incorrect, because the Applicant never proposed a 38-turbine project in compliance with EFSEC’s mandatory procedures. Instead, the proposal reviewed below was the 50-turbine proposal in the Application.
The Applicant, citing a letter written by its company president, Jason Spadaro, asserts that it “conducted more . . . wildlife surveys than any other previously proposed project.” WRE Br. at 4 (citing AR 15791). Mr. Spadaro’s self-serving and unsupported statement is patently incorrect. The Applicant did not even comply with the bare minimum requirements of the WDFW Wind Power Guidelines and EFSEC’s rules (see infra Part III.B)—let alone conduct more surveys than other projects.
The Counties make several statements about the economics of Skamania County. Counties Br. at 1–6, 15, 27. The Supreme Court should disregard these statements, which the Counties do not even attempt to tie to any applicable statute or rule, and which have no bearing on the issues presented in this appeal and no relevance to the applicable law.
Finally, State Respondents argue incorrectly that Petitioners “conceded” that they do not seek a reversal of the decisions. State Br. at 9. To clarify, Petitioners seek both reversal and remand of the decisions listed at pages 3 and 4 of the Opening Brief. However, Petitioners do not challenge State Respondents’ authority to regulate and approve wind energy projects, in contrast to the arguments made in the “ROKT” case. See Residents Opposed to Kittitas Turbines v. State EFSEC, 165 Wn. 2d 275, 305–11, 197 P.3d 1153 (2008). …
Because EFSEC failed to resolve numerous important issues that were contested below, and also violated and ignored multiple statutory and regulatory requirements in the course of its review, the Project’s true impacts were never evaluated and the decision to approve the Project was uninformed. The Court should reverse and remand for further review.
Download original document: “Whistling Ridge Petitioners Reply Brief”
Washington State Supreme Court – Oral arguments: Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Inc., et al v. EFSEC, et al. (Did the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council and governor properly approve the Whistling Ridge Wind Energy Project?) – Thursday, June 27, 2013: