The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listened to opinions Tuesday on the possible impacts of wind energy development in Southern Colorado and through the midsection of the country.
The agency is helping develop a habitat conservation plan and environmental impact study for 19 wind energy companies that could install wind farms anywhere from the northern border of North Dakota to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.
The meeting was held at the Pueblo Convention Center with about a dozen people on hand.
Laila A. Lienesch, renewable energy coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency is particularly concerned with potential impacts to the migratory patterns of whooping cranes which, in general, run from North Dakota to Texas.
But the agency is also interested in potential impacts to the prairie chicken which puts portions of Southern Colorado and New Mexico into play.
Whooping Cranes are listed as endangered species and the companies that decide to build wind farms in their migratory corridor will be required to present a plan on how they will avoid or minimize potential impacts to the birds.
Impacts are wide-ranging, from direct hits on the windmills to the consumption of stopover habitat along the migration routes.
While the prairie chicken isn’t listed yet, it may be in the future and Lienesch said the process is also encouraging the companies to consider how wind farms would affect those birds as well.
Prairie chicken habitat starts a few miles east of Pueblo through the Lower Arkansas River Valley into Kansas.
Lienesch said there is no specific site mentioned in any of the states for a wind farm.
The meeting Tuesday was part of a 90-day process to gather public input before the agency moves ahead with drafting an environmental impact statement and habitat conservation plan.
After those drafts are complete, another 90-day public input process will begin.
The consortium of wind companies includes Acciona North America, Allete, Alternity, BP Wind energy, Clipper Wind Energy, CPV Renewable Energy Company, EnXco, Duke Energy Renewables, Horizon Wind Energy, Element Power, Iberdrola Renewables, Infinity, MAP Royalty, NextEra Energy Resources, Own Energy, Renewable Energy systems Americas, Terra-Gen, Trade Wind Energy and Wind Capital Group.
For more information go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.
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