The proposed 34-turbine wind farm on Penobscot Mountain in Bear Creek Township will not impact timber rattlesnakes, birds, bats, and rare and endangered plants, according to a report released Monday.
Energy Unlimited Inc. has proposed two turbine projects for the site. Commonwealth Court recently reversed a lower court decision and upheld a decision by the Bear Creek Township board of supervisors to deny the 25-turbine plans. Energy Unlimited has filed a motion to reargue the case with Commonwealth Court.
A second plan for nine turbines is under appeal in Commonwealth Court.
Monday’s report focuses on a timber rattlesnake survey conducted during five days last summer by snake biologist William H. Martin. The survey found that the project should have no impact on the timber rattlesnake since it likely does not occur on the site.
The survey was requested by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Ed Shoener of Shoener Environmental, project manager for Energy Unlimited, said.
Martin didn’t find any timber rattlesnakes on the property and doubted there are any den or gestation sites and concluded the project area “probably lies outside the local distribution of the timber rattlesnake.”
The survey hasn’t lessened the concerns of Rick Koval, of the Fish and Boat Commission’s state Timber Rattlesnake Site Assessment and Inventory. Koval said there is a historical den site a mile away and another “robust” den area five miles away. Timber rattlesnakes have a range of five miles, and Koval has seen them three miles from the site.
“Will there be an impact on timber rattlesnakes? It depends. If there is a gestation or den site nearby, the answer is yes,” Koval said.
Surveys for birds, bats, and rare and endangered plants have been completed. The bird and bat surveys, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, found the project would have no “biologically significant impacts” to birds, no eagles nest at the site and no federally endangered Indiana bats were located at the site.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources commissioned the rare and endangered plant survey, which concluded the project would not harm any of the plant species or ecological communities.
Koval said the bird and bat surveys are inconclusive because there are rare or threatened species that exist nearby. He said there have not been surveys conducted of moth or invertebrate species, including several located at the site.
“These wind farm projects are still new to the Eastern U.S. and there’s a lot of unknowns,” Koval said. “When you have seven miles of roads, transformers, power lines, tons of concrete and the turbines, there’s going to be some impact. There needs to be more research during the appropriate seasons to determine how much impact.”
By Tom Venesky
13 March 2007
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