Dec. 20 brought the long awaited decision of the State Corporation Commission. It was anticipated, following the hearing examiner’s announcement of a monitoring and mitigation plan, that the decision would be to grant permission to build the wind facility. It was not anticipated there would be such ambiguity, obfuscation and lack of an organizing principle in the plan as to render it a hodgepodge of unresolved issues.
The monitoring and mitigation was modified from the hearing examiner’s original plan, decreasing by $50,000, the annual cap cost for monitoring. The mitigation remained essentially the same, continuing to provide only about three days for shutting down the macerating blades of the wind turbines, which is woefully inadequate.
There is a lack of clarity as to which parts of the plan are the responsibility of which agency: the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries or Department of Environmental Quality or United States Fish and Wildlife Service?
The plan is actually an experiment that should be done in a pre-construction phase. Daily carcass searches are done only from April to October at 10 randomly selected turbine sites, presumably for bats and birds. Searches for raptors are to be done from November to March. This makes no sense; are not raptors birds?
There is no mention of any attempt at mitigation. If injured or dead endangered or threatened species are found, DGIF and USFWS are notified (by whom?) within 24 hours (too long!). Then Highland New Wind Development will pay money to DGIF for raptor research (bad science).
A “replacement cost” (as if such is possible) will range from $400 to $1,500, depending on the species, ranging from red-tailed hawks to bald eagles (and presumably golden eagles), snowy owls and ospreys. Who has the brazen audacity and conceit to be so presumptuous as to know the monetary worth of these birds?
It appears that worth is to be determined in the market place. The American eagle and its cousins are to be sacrificed on an altar of greed, aided and abetted by those who are legally responsible for their protection. If the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act has been surreptitiously nullified, there is no need to seek a kill permit. Also there is no need for certain members of the board of supervisors to fear that the project will be shut down with a loss of revenue.
It is not passing strange that the past election was in part an attempt to realign the board to be more representative of how a majority of the citizens felt about the development of industrial wind turbines in their county, and after the election all the board members became supportive of the project’s survival? It is a sad commentary that the pristine beauty of Highland County is being traded for a puny amount of electricity that will be as variable as the wind it generates. In a sense, Highland’s wind will be exported to places like Northern Virginia despite the fact that it has a plenitude of high class wind and Highland will be left with a devastated ecosystem.
Mr. Frank Maisano, a spokesman for HNWD and a member of the public relation firm, Bracewell Guiliani, implied Sen. John Warner would be supportive of wind turbines in Highland. He is perhaps unaware of Sen. Warner’s, as well as former Sen. George Allen’s, strong opposition to placing industrial wind turbines in pristine areas such as Highland County. A Google search reveals very interesting information regarding Bracewell Guiliani.
Orren L. Royal,
M.D., M.S. (Biology), Captain (MC) USN (Ret.)
17 January 2008
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