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Peru committee learns about wind turbine impact on wildlife

PERU – Members of the town Wind Ordinance Committee met with Steve Pelletier of Stantec Environmental Consultants on Tuesday to discuss how wind power projects might impact wildlife.

“There is nothing in the woods of Peru that can’t stand the impact of roads and turbines,” Pelletier said. He pointed out that over the last couple hundred years, animals have adapted to cutting virgin forest, agriculture, and people moving into their territory. He said he would expect a post construction wildlife study to find all of the same species found in the preconstruction study.

He said walking through the woods of Peru, like surrounding towns, show they have been heavily logged and are full of old logging roads. However modern logging practices are less damaging to wildlife and their habitat, he said.

Pelletier said that the fact that wildlife can adapt is no reason to not require good habitat preservation and restoration practices from wind power developers. He advocated strict measures to prevent erosion and planting appropriate vegetation on disturbed ground.

There was considerable concern by members of the committee that birds and bats would be killed by wind turbines. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service there are probably 20 billion birds in the United States in the fall. More than 100 million are killed each year from running into buildings, towers, transmission lines and cars and by domestic cats. Estimates for death from window strikes range from 97 million to 976 million, and cars kill 60 million or more, while less than 100,000 die from wind turbines.

Pelletier said that at several poorly located wind farms there have been extensive bird kills. He cited a California wind farm built in the 1970s as a horrible example. The turbines were closely aligned along a cliff over a prairie dog town in a known raptor flyway with truss work towers. Migrating raptors took advantage of the roosting spots provided by the trusses and the ready supply of food below. The birds died in large numbers, he said.

Pelletier said his studies have shown very few birds and bats killed by wind turbines and he feels it is not a concern for properly sited projects. He pointed out that only four bald eagles are known to have been killed by wind turbines in the United States.

He suggested wording in Peru’s wind ordinance that would require the owners to modify operating periods or take other steps if bird kills were excessive.

Committee Chairman Bill Hine said he was concerned with the perception that the committee had a bias against wind power. He brought up the question of whether they should ask selectmen to appoint some pro wind advocates to the committee.

Committee member Steve Fuller said they would have to start over to get new members up to speed.

Committee member Rick Childs said he thought when residents cast their votes on the ordinance it would be based on their opinion of wind power and how they thought the ordinance would support their view.

Former Selectman Jim Pulsifer, also a committee member, pointed out that from the beginning their goal has been to write a fair ordinance that protected the interest of the town. He thought voters would support an evenhanded ordinance.

The committee was formed last fall and also includes Kevin Benedict, Warren McFawn, J.R. Worthington and Philip Bretz.

On Nov. 8, voters approved a six-month moratorium on industrial wind power developments to allow time for an ordinance to be adopted.

EDP Renewables North America LLC of Houston, Texas, received a permit in October 2011 to place a meteorological test tower off Black Mountain Road near the Sumner town line. The company is considering building possibly 25 to 35 turbines, a representative told the committee in February.