Commission to set rules for windmills in wetlands
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The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will develop guidelines for wind turbine development in wetland and watershed areas following the quarterly board meeting in Harrisburg.
The commissioners agreed during the Oct. 1 meeting not only to develop guidelines but also send a letter to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty concerning the matter, said Len Lichvar, the District 4 commissioner.
“We need to develop a full-blown policy, especially in exceptional value watersheds and wetland areas. We’re charged by legislature to protect the resources of the state,” he said.
The guidelines will include recommendations on studies to complete prior to permitting turbine sites, he said.
John Armway, the commission’s division chief of environmental services, said that guidelines will look to assess project impacts on not only watersheds and wetlands, but on reptiles and amphibians that could see migration routes or habitat impaired by the sites.
Of particular concern are endangered species that include some salamanders and the eastern timber rattlesnake, he said.
Currently, environmental considerations are forwarded through the DEP with wildlife agencies like the state Game Commission and PFBC submitting only written recommendations and relying on the DEP for final permitting.
Since the commission has no regulatory power, the idea would be to build a framework of studies and guidelines coordinated with the DEP, he said.
“The rate of application for these projects is increasing, and as a result we’re trying to stay a step ahead of it,” he said. The goal is to provide a draft policy to the board during the next quarterly meeting in January, he said.
The commission will push for studies to be completed in full before the permit is issued, which varies from a recent agreement between wind developers and the game commission calling for ongoing studies pre- and post- construction.
“We’re more concerned with predictive studies, not necessarily post-construction studies. If indeed there is a conflict, can the development be adjusted to protect the animals?” he said.
For the commission, turbines have been an ongoing issue, just not in the way the average person might expect, he said. Hydro-turbine projects have been dealt with for years by the commission and it has developed guidelines of placing them in area waterways, limiting the potential for fish kills, he said.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses those water-borne projects and takes recommendations from the commission much like the DEP does for the others, he said.
“To us, these are just inverted,” he said of the terrestrial versions springing up on mountain tops.
“For us it’s a simple issue, how will the physical disturbance of the mountain top impact these animals?” he said.
By Dan DiPaolo
5 October 2007
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