The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service told an environmental consulting service that it cannot recommend that a proposed wind power project be constructed on Shenandoah Mountain in Pendleton and Hardy counties crossing into a portion of Rockingham County, Va.
The projected wind facility site appears to partially lie within the George Washington National Forest.
Western EcoSystems Technology Inc. (WEST Inc.), providing environmental consulting services for wind power projects, asked Fish and Wildlife Service’s West Virginia Field Office to not reveal an exact location of the proposed wind farm “due to the preliminary nature of the project,” according to Field Supervisor Thomas R. Chapman.
“The company asked that the type and location of the project be considered proprietary and confidential,” Chapman said.
Calls to WEST employees Wendy Tidhar in Cheyenne, Wyo., Jessica Kerns in Ithaca, N.Y., and Dave Young on the road in Texas were not immediately returned.
Fish and Wildlife said in a Nov. 16 letter to Tidhar that it is supportive of electricity generation from renewable sources and encourages efficient wind energy projects that are sited and operated to be bird-and-bat friendly.
But, “we recommend that you consider alternative locations for this wind power facility because the proposed site is a high risk site, and wind power operations at this location pose a reasonable likelihood of take (kill) of species protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Golden Eagle Protection Act,” Laura Hill, writing for Chapman, said.
However should the WEST client intend to pursue the construction and operation of a wind power facility at this location, Fish and Wildlife insists three years of pre-construction surveys including mist net, radar and acoustic monitoring studies for bat and bald eagles foraging areas should be conducted, Hill said.
If federally listed species are found to be present or affected by the project, then the client should apply for an incidental take permit and affiliated Habitat Conservation Plan, Hill added.
Fish and Wildlife recommends that the client coordinate with the U.S. Forest Service’s West Virginia and Virginia field offices regarding the need for a special use permit for access to the site in the George Washington National Forest, Hill said.
WEST Inc. specializes in a “common sense, defensible and professional approach to the solution of natural resource problems facing government and industry,” according to its Web site.
With a unique combination of ecologists and biostatisticians on staff, WEST considers itself outstanding in the development and assessment of wind projects in over 20 states and Canada.
Conducting a wide variety of avian and wildlife studies and research, “West has played a leading role in understanding, assessing and placing into perspective the impacts of wind projects on wildlife and habitat using scientifically credible and defensible risk assessment, monitoring and research methods.” It has successfully worked with all stakeholders involved in dealing with these technical issues, notes the Web site.
Some of the services advertised by WEST concern threatened and endangered species surveys; estimation of animal abundance and habitat preference; population and community level studies and gap analysis; and conflict resolution/negotiations of natural resource issues with public and private sectors.
WEST has provided avian, bat, wildlife, vegetation and wetland surveys; risk and impact assessments; ecological study plans; Habitat Conservation Plans; Conditional Use Permit applications; Environmental Impact Statements; and Biological Assessments.
Also WEST has conducted a wide variety of wildlife studies at wind projects located throughout the U.S. such as raptor, bat, passerine, owl, mountain plover and sensitive species surveys; bat mortality studies; and night-time migration radar studies.
NedPower of the Mount Storm Wind Project in Grant County is a local wind power client. A long list of other clients include eight states, several international companies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, National Biological Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Park Service and Navy.
By Joan Ashley
For the Inter-Mountain
15 January 2008
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