Environmental groups are divided regarding rules adopted this week by Alameda County designed to reduce the number of golden eagles, raptors and other birds killed in the spinning blades of Altamont Pass wind turbines.
Under new permitting rules accepted after a 4-1 vote by county supervisors Wednesday, up to 4,800 privately operated turbines will be shut down during winter and turbine blades will be painted to make them easier for birds to see. The turbines will be shut down for two months or longer this winter and next, and for a quarter of the year or more beginning at the end of 2008.
Other restrictions might be adopted if bird deaths don’t drop by a half within three years.
The Audubon Society forced the rule changes through a legal challenge to the way the county issues turbine permits. The society claims the turbines kill up to 4,700 birds annually, including more than 100 protected golden eagles.
The county’s new rules were agreed to by the society, which dropped its lawsuit.
“Golden Gate Audubon recognizes the severe impacts that global warming and the burning of fossil fuels have on birds and their habitat, and we are committed to supporting renewable energy, including wind power,” said Samantha Murray, Conservation Director for Golden Gate Audubon Society, in a written statement.
But a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity says the new rules don’t go far enough.
“The settlement eliminates the agreement we obtained from Alameda County that would have required all of the lethal first generation turbines at Altamont to be replaced by 2018 with newer technology that would have been placed in safer locations and configurations for birds,” said Bay Area Wildlands coordinator Jeff Miller in an e-mail. “This is a step backward for protection of birds and for development of safer wind-power sources.”
Tracy Press/Press staff report
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