Although the Poseidon Atlantic wind turbine test facility has received much fanfare from the Governor’s office, the Chairman of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, and this newspaper, certain critical details have been left out of recent discussions, namely – the Board of Supervisors removed an Overlay District from the Wind Energy Ordinance before approving it, which would have protected the most critical areas of the migratory flyway; and supervisors held private meetings with Fugro Atlantic and among several of the supervisors prior to the public meeting scheduled to discuss the ordinance.
Although I fully support wind energy and other forms of alternative energy, I am also concerned about the impacts of wind turbines, including potential mortality to birds and bats, and noise and other impacts to nearby residents.
All of these factors were addressed in the original Wind Energy Ordinance approved by the Northampton Planning Commission; however, the Board of Supervisors removed the Overlay District and changed other noise and flicker parameters before approving the final ordinance.
The Overlay District was based on a map of Coastal Avian Protection Zones from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, derived from extensive field research and radar data, indicating the most critical habitat and landing areas for migratory birds.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a world-renowned site for the migration of hawks and other raptors, shorebirds, songbirds, and Monarch butterflies, which brings visitors to the Shore each year, including the recent Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival.
Many of us are familiar with Hope, the whimbrel who travels from the Arctic to Central or South America each year, and makes a single stop near Nassawadox to refuel. Without that one spot, she and many others in her species would not survive that long flight. Similar stories can be told for other species migrating through this area.
With up to 10 turbines up to 750 feet tall, the Poseidon Atlantic project could pose a serious risk to Hope and the other millions of birds migrating through each year.
Although an application had not been submitted, representatives from Fugro Atlantic were present and participated in the Planning Commission meeting at which the Wind Energy Ordinance was reviewed and approved, and held private meetings with members of the board of supervisors prior to the public meeting at which the ordinance was changed and approved.
This may not be illegal, but it certainly isn’t the ideal process. It’s clear to this writer that the company had certain criteria that had to be met for them to proceed, and the Northampton supervisors were so eager to get a new economic endeavor in the county that they were willing to do whatever the company wanted.
With the removal of the Overlay District, I can only assume that the site chosen will be within that area on the bayside or seaside, and will needlessly put millions of migratory birds at risk. Let’s hope that Hope isn’t one of those to pay the ultimate price.
The writer and her husband live in Harborton; they have had a 100 percent solar house since March 2010.
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