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Migratory Bird Use of Delaware Bay with Respect to Risks of Wind Energy Development

Scott Brubaker, the DEP’s assistant commissioner for land use management, informs Delsea Energy in an Aug. 20 letter “that the Delaware Bay is not an appropriate area for development of wind energy”:

[I]n considering this issue, the Department has determined that we have, over many years of study and evaluation, developed sufficient information regarding the diversity, scope, and importance of avian resources in and around the Delaware Bay. Based on these data, we conclude that, at this time, this area is not appropriate for a large-scale wind turbine project due to concerns with impacts to migratory and other bird populations. …

The concentration of raptors that occurs in the Cape May stopover, along with the various patterns of flight (foraging and low level flight) as they funnel into and mill around the region, makes them vulnerable to collision with turbines placed within the same airspace (<100 m); two raptors (osprey and peregrine falcon) have been killed by an array of five turbines located in wetlands near Atlantic City after one year of monitoring (Mizrahi et al. 2008). The density of land birds (raptors and songbirds) concentrating in the region, and the fact that the majority are inexperienced, juvenile birds, increases the likelihood of collisions as birds make their way into and out of this migration stopover. Perhaps of equal importance is the likelihood of turbines causing migrating birds to avoid habitat, and therefore be subject to habitat loss that is additive to that occurring at a high rate on Cape May peninsula. The loss of habitat to development has already had a negative impact on migrating raptor habitat use on the peninsula, causing birds to move farther to find adequate foraging and roosting areas (Frank 2007). Post-construction carcass surveys have shown that passerines are among the most likely avian groups to be impacted by collisions with wind turbines (Howe et al. 2002, Johnson et al, 2002, Schmidt et al. 2002, Kerns and Kerlinger 2004, Mizrahi et al. 2009). Although migrating songbirds often fly at higher altitudes than current turbine rotor blades can reach, they fly lower when crossing over bodies of water and this makes them more likely to be flying in the rotor swept area (Huppop et al. 2006). They also fly at lower altitudes when the conditions for migrating are poor (e.g., fog, low cloud ceiling, headwinds), and in areas where stopover habitat exists as the descend and ascend to take advantage of resting and foraging areas (Langston and Pullen 2003). Radar data of bird migration from the Cape May area recorded the presence of thousands of low-flying migrants (<100 m in altitude), confirming that migrants fly at lower altitudes in the Cape May stopover than might be expected during migration (Mizrahi et al. 2009). References:

Also includes a letter from the Atlantic Flyway Council:

The Council is greatly concerned about the potential negative impacts to avian resources by the proposed Delsea Energy project in Delaware Bay, Including collisions with wind turbines, direct habitat loss, and displacement and disturbance during construction and future maintenance activities …

Both waterfowl and migrating shorebirds have been shown to be sensitive to disturbance caused by human activities, including avoidance of areas where large nearshore wind turbine arrays are located (per European studies). Placement, operation, and maintenance activities associated with wind turbines in Delaware Bay are likely to disrupt feeding and roosting waterfowl and staging shorebirds directly or by displacing them from areas where critical resources are located. This disruption could be particularly devastating to staging shorebirds that must increase fat reserves in a limited time to successfully continue their migration. Placement of turbines and associated project infrastructure such as power collection lines in marsh habitat areas will also directly reduce habitat available for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other migratory birds.

Download original document: “N.J. DEP letter to Delsea Energy concerning birds in Delaware Bay [1]