A National Audubon Society chapter based in the Twin Cities has withdrawn its opposition to a proposed wind farm near the Mackinaw River on the Woodford-McLean county line.
Angelo Capperella, spokesman for the John Wesley Powell Chapter of the Audubon Society, plans to be at the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Tuesday on a special use permit the Chicago-based Ivenergy Wind LLC has requested for its White Oak Wind Energy Project.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in rooms 1406-1407 of the Community Commons Building at Heartland Community College.
Invenergy LLC isn’t out of the woods yet, however.
McLean County Department of Building and Zoning director Phil Dick said his office has received several requests from residents in the area of the proposed wind farm asking that the hearing be continued.
They say they have not had time to mount opposition to the project or find experts to testify on their behalf, Dick said. The board will take up their request at the start of Tuesday’s proceeding, Dick said.
On the bird issue, Capparella said Invenergy was very responsive after his group voiced concerns the location of some of the planned 100 turbines could harm birds that live in or migrate through the river valley.
The company has revised locations of three turbines, in part, due to concern about birds and set parameters on how close others could be placed to wildlife habitat.
The company will avoid placing turbines within one mile of the Mackinaw River, a half mile of Evergreen Lake or within 600 feet of any conservation reserve areas.
“We are very happy with those recommendations and we support the project with those modifications,” Caparella said. “We are also pleased that post-construction monitoring will be performed to ensure that no unanticipated siting problems have occurred.”
Invenergy is happy with the support.
“We are very pleased,” said Invenergy spokesman Joel Link. “It shows as a company we always want to work any problems that arise in these projects. It shows we are not inflexible when it comes to different issues.”
Capparella stressed the Audubon chapter is not against wind farms in general. Indeed, the chapter supported another wind farm located in eastern McLean County.
Most wind farms have taken care to locate turbines away from bird migration paths after a much-publicized case in California where many raptors were killed.
But, prior to similar hearings on the White Oak Wind Project in Woodford County earlier this month, Audubon members worried eagles and other raptors could be among affected birds.
Capparella said Invenergy’s study made no mention of the nearby preserves and underestimated the number of birds that live or migrate through the region. As a result, Audubon had feared the potential impact on birds would be overlooked.
By Scott Richardson
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