In October 2010, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) received a letter from Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. (WEST), inquiring about environmental suitability for a wind power facility of a huge area in Randolph, County, with total area about 100,000 acres.
Apparently, the prospective wind turbines would be sited on the ridge lines atop Cheat or Shaver’s Mountains, or both. The final USFWS response was dated July, 2011, and was obtained by a more recent FOIA request. At this point, we do not know if this project is still active, but are trying to find out.
WEST is a capable and well-regarded environmental and statistical consulting company that participates in many wind projects and has developed the sideline of “fronting” for developers in such matters.
The area referenced lies east of Elkins, extending past the Glady Fork, on both side of US33. It approaches the Otter Creek wilderness to the north, extends past the Glady community on the south, and is all within the proclamation boundary of Monongahela National Forest. Most of it lies within a large Monongahela National Forest in-holding. See map showing the area as well as the species mentioned in the corespondence on the next page.
USFWS was generally negative and went Ainto great detail and specificity about their concerns for such a project, although theAy did include the obligatory statement of support for properly sited wind energy projects. They spoke of many caves and threats to the endangered Indiana and Virginia Big-eared bat species.
Also the Cheat Mountain salamander, West Virginia northern flying squirrel, and running buffalo clover. WVDNR rare species of concern mentioned included the timber rattlesnake, northern red salamander, northern goshawk, golden-winged warbler, Allegheny wood rat, southern rock vole, pale frilly orchid, Spruce Knob three tooth, and Appalachian blue violet.
They also expressed concern about the cumulative effect on non-endangered bats associated with wind power facilities such as these along ridges of the Appalachian plateau.
The recreational and aesthetic impact of project(s) in this area would be very great. The Shaver’s Fork and Glady Fork rivers are included. The turbines would be highly visible from Spruce Knob and locations in the Otter Creek wilderness.
Note: Because the print version of The Highlands Voice is in black and white, the map that illustrates this story may not be as informative as it might be. To see the map in color, try the online version of the Voice at www.wvhighlands.org.