The site of a proposed wind farm on the border of Virginia and West Virginia is inappropriate, federal officials say, due to the potential harm such a project could pose to several endangered species.
That’s the opinion of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service in a letter to environmental consultant Western EcoSystems Technology Inc., of Cheyenne, Wyo.
The proposed site for the wind-power project encompasses portions of Rockingham County in Virginia, and Pendleton and Hardy counties in West Virginia, according to WEST, which is studying the site on behalf of an unnamed client. The consultant asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to withhold the name of the client, as well as the exact location and nature of the project.
But Fish and Wildlife officials made clear that the proposed site, which appears to partially lie within the George Washington National Forest, isn’t the best location for a wind-power project.
“We recommend that you consider alternative locations for this … facility because the proposed site is a high risk site,” Fish and Wildlife Field Supervisor Thomas R. Chapman said in a letter to WEST’s Wendy Tidhar.
“And wind power operations at this location pose a reasonable likelihood of [harming] species protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Golden Eagle Protection Act,” the letter continued.
Therefore, it said, “We recommend that [the wind-power facility] not be constructed at this site.”
The area is a prime habitat of the bald and golden eagle, as well as two species of bats – all of which are on federal endangered species lists.
‘Green’ Energy Encouraged
Protected bird and bat species have been at the center of many disputes surrounding wind farm projects in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and in eastern West Virginia in recent years.
Fish and Wildlife officials said the agency supports alternative energy production, including wind power, but only when they are “sited and operated to be bird-and-bat friendly.”
WEST officials, including Tidhar, could not be reached for comment.
Despite the concerns of Fish and Wildlife officials, WEST’s client could pursue the construction of the wind-power facility at the proposed location. If so, officials say they will insist that the company in question conduct three years of preconstruction surveys, including monitoring studies for bat and bald eagle foraging areas, said Laura Hill of Fish and Wildlife.
If federally listed species are found to be present or affected by the project, then the client should apply for a special permit and a Habitat Conservation Plan, Hill added.
By Joan Ashley
15 January 2008
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