Alameda County supervisors approved a one-year monitoring system that would study the impacts of the Altamont Pass windmills on scores of birds, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls and other protected species.
The $1.4 million price tag for the deal caused concern among the supervisors, who are afraid the cost of the study has spiraled out of control, but saying the study was necessary, they approved it unanimously Tuesday.
Last summer, supervisors rejected a $3 million three-year plan to monitor bird deaths in the Altamont. At that July meeting, supervisors agreed to cap the program at $2 million, saying monitoring costs had spiraled out of control.
The chosen monitoring program will be a collaborative operation of the University of California, Santa Cruz, WEST Inc. and Jones & Stokes, the top three bidders for the project.
According to a study released in 2004 by the California Energy Commission, an estimated
1,700 to 4,700 birds die each year by flying into whirling turbine blades or being electrocuted by transmission lines that thread through the 50,000-acre
Altamont Wind Resource Area.
The fatalities involve as many as 116 golden eagles, 300 red-tailed hawks, 333 American kestrels and 380 burrowing owls, the study found.
A lawsuit filed against the county in October by the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Californians for Renewable Energy and four other local Audubon chapters challenged the countys decision o renew permits for Altamont Pass wind turbines. A subsequent settlement forces the wind industry to commit to a 50 percent reduction in raptor deaths by November 2009, and remove the deadliest turbines and continuing winter shutdowns of the wind machines.
That settlement assumes there are 1,300 golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and burrowing owl deaths in that Livermore area each year.
By Chris Metinko
26 April 2007
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