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Towers plan open for review; Collected data to be used to assess sites for wind power  

A draft habitat conservation plan and environmental assessment are available for public review as part of an application by Castle & Cooke Resorts for the construction and operation of seven meteorological towers on Lanai.

The towers will be used for as much as two years to collect data on wind patterns to assess whether sites could sustain a wind power generation facility.

The conservation plan and environmental assessment are part of Castle & Cooke’s application for an “incidental take” permit, which is required when nonfederal activities are likely to have negative impacts on threatened or endangered species.

Public comments are due Aug. 7.

One year ago, C&C subsidiary Lanai Sustainability Research LLC proposed a 300- to 400-megawatt wind farm that would export electricity to Oahu through an undersea cable. Since then, both wind availability and biological studies have been under way.

The species that might be affected by construction and operation of the towers include: the endangered Hawaiian petrel (‘ua’u), Hawaiian stilt (ae’o) and Hawaiian hoary bat (‘ope’ape’a) and the threatened Newell’s shearwater (‘a’o).

Six of the seven meteorological towers have been built on Castle & Cooke land. If approved, the permit would authorize a “take” incidental to otherwise lawful activities.

The federal Endangered Species Act defines “take” as action that could harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect, or attempt to do such things with threatened or endangered species. Harm may include making a significant habitat modification that would kill or injure a species by impairing essential behavior such as nesting or reproduction.

The conservation plan describes how Castle & Cooke Resorts would – to the maximum extent practicable – minimize, mitigate and monitor the impact on protected species that may come from the construction and operation of its meteorological towers on Lanai.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources jointly process conservation plans for incidental takes, but the agencies issue separate permits and licenses.

Each meteorological tower is 165 feet tall and rests on a 9-square-foot steel base. Each tower is supported by aircraft guy wires. Overall, the towers cover about 13 acres.

No endangered or threatened species are known to live in areas in the immediate vicinity of the towers. The only anticipated incidental take would be birds colliding with the towers and guy wires. Castle & Cooke pledged to take steps, such as making the towers and guy wires visible to birds, to reduce the chances of birds being harmed by the towers.

Written comments should be submitted to Patrick Leonard, field supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu 96850. Comments also can be sent via fax to (808) 792-9580.

The plan and environmental assessment are posted online at www.fws.gov/pacificislands. Copies also can be obtained from Bill Standley by calling (808) 792-9400.

The Maui News

14 July 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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