A Shaffer Mountain property owner said Friday that Gamesa officials refused to release a report stating that an endangered species of bat was discovered on the mountain. But Gamesa officials said the information was released at a public meeting in August.
A study conducted on behalf of Gamesa reveled that two juvenile Indiana bats, federally listed endangered species, were discovered in the middle of the company’s proposed windmill project area.
Jack Buchan, a Shaffer Mountain property owner and member of Sensible Wind Solutions, said he received the report a few days ago and was not surprised the Indiana bats were discovered at that location. He said Gamesa will need a “takings permit” under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to build the wind farm.
“Since they were juveniles, it means there is a colony nearby that is probably breeding on Shaffer Mountain,” he said.
Ellen Lutz, director of development for Gamesa, and Tim Vought, senior project developer, both said the information was released at an Aug. 28 Department of Environmental Protection public meeting. They added the meeting was videotaped and there is a transcript of the event.
“We have been working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Lutz said. “We have been working with them to determine the path forward.”
Buchan said his organization needed the official report, not just a summary of the findings, which was disseminated at the meeting.
Vought said they knew there would be some concerns with bats at the site in Shade and Ogle townships. Radio devices were attached to the bats to determine their flight paths.
“We agreed to do extensive surveys in that past,” he said. “What we did is record the spring and fall telemetry. We understand where the bats are flying and where they are spending the summers. The studies show the maternity colony is not within our project area.”
Buchan said the study failed to prove that bats do not fly in the area.
“They found two bats in the project area,” he said. “The telemetry study is totally worthless.”
A biologist concluded that because the bats are male juveniles, they may not actually live in the area, Vought added.
Gamesa opted not to release the full report earlier to honor requests from federal agencies that did not want the location of the bats’ cave revealed to the public.
“We’re not hiding anything,” Lutz said. “There has been problems in the past with vandalism of caves where bats live.”
Buchan said that wasn’t an issue for his group.
“We told them we didn’t want to know the location where they found them,” he said. “The issue is the Indiana bat they found in the area.”
Gamesa officials also refuted claims that 90 windmills will be built on Shaffer Mountain.
“We were able to secure enough land for 30 windmills,” Vought said. “None of the neighboring property owners wanted to give us the land to expand the project.”
While the impact of the two juvenile bats on the project may be unclear at this time, Vought said they are exploring their options and understand the Endangered Species Act. “We are doing our homework,” he said.
Lutz stressed that information has been disseminated to various watershed organizations and Gamesa is willing to talk with anyone who has questions about the windmill projects.
Buchan’s organization supports wind farms in proper locations. He forwarded the study to Penn State biology professor Dr. Michael Gannon, who is a bat expert.
By Michelle Ganassi
30 November 2007