During an update on the Highland New Wind Development’s planned industrial wind facility at the February meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors, the county attorney seems to have turned the conditional use permit into final permission. Regarding the Endangered Species Act, she concluded that the county supervisors cannot require HNWD to get an incidental take permit (the federal permit to allow incidental harm or death to an endangered species) because this would be imposing “additional restrictions.”
The conditional use permit states that HNWD shall obtain all “required state and federal approvals.” Since the Highland County Board of Supervisors issued the conditional use permit, it is not only the right, but also the responsibility of the board to determine what permits are required. This is not an “additional restriction” if the board of supervisors has the right to interpret its own permit. The word conditional means that the board has that right.
If HNWD proceeds without an incidental take permit and is subsequently found in violation of the Endangered Species Act, the project could be shut down. A derelict facility would be of no use, would provide no revenue and would likely be a burden to Highland County. Moreover, the Endangered Species Act provides that a governmental body may itself be held liable when it permits an activity that results in harm to an endangered species.
The Highland Board of Supervisors can and should protect the county’s interest by requiring that HNWD obtain an incidental take permit before going forward with the project.
7 February 2008
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