A draft report of a one-year study of the distribution and behavior of birds in Forward Energy’s wind farm near Horicon Marsh concludes that the project won’t significantly interfere with nesting or migratory patterns of the rarer bird species observed.
The report was prepared by Curry and Kerlinger LLC of McLean, Va. from a three-part study designed in cooperation with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Public Service Commission staff. A final report will be issued after a DNR and PSC staff review.
The study’s primary purpose was to acquire data for use in before and after comparisons when construction of the 133 wind turbines, each with an overall height of 400 feet, is completed. The project will be spread over 33,000 acres in Byron and Oakfield townships. The closest turbine would be located within two miles of Horicon Marsh, a stopover for thousands of migratory birds.
Much of the project area is cultivated farmland and more suitable bird habitat was found in the diverse plant communities.
Eight forested tracts, four grassland tracts and four wetlands were chosen for the study. Each tract was visited 25 to 28 times between April 2005 and March 2006 in assessing how several rarer species of birds use the project area. Bird behavior, including height of bird flights, was noted in conjunction with the height of the wind turbine rotors.
Because very few forest birds were observed, the draft concluded that the woodlots in the project area were too small and scattered to support the rarer bird species expected to be found in larger forested patches.
The grassland tracts were also too few, too small or lack “sufficient vegetative quality to support nesting of rarer grassland specialty birds,” according to the 98-page report.
The Niagara Escarpment, west of the project area, which the DNR believes is a significant corridor for raptor and crane migration, was observed for a total of 347 hours. The draft report concluded it wasn’t the migratory route the DNR has hypothesized.
“(B)irds spread out randomly “¦ they were not concentrated “¦ close to the escarpment as opposed to farther away as would be the case if the escarpment were a migration corridor or pathway,” according to the report.
A call to Mick Baird, project manager for Invenergy, the approved builder for the 200-megawatt wind turbine facility and transmission lines, wasn’t returned before deadline.
A PSC spokesperson had no immediate comment on when the final report would be prepared or how the study fits into the PSC review of the project.
An opponent of the project, Joe Breaden, of rural Mayville, said he only had portions of the report read to him, but called what he heard, “more B.S.”
“They’re (Curry & Kerlinger) definitely ringers for (Invenergy). It’s really nice when you can afford to make your own study to tell you what you want to know. Anytime you have wildlife going up against corporate greed, wildlife always loses,” Breaden said.
Breaden, who lives within a mile of the marsh and has fought the project in court, called the coming DNR and PSC staff review of the study a “joke” done by, in the PSC’s case, an agency that “bends over backwards” to accommodate projects at the expense of wildlife.
By Kevin Murphy
Special to the Reporter
8 March 2007
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