The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved an extensive habitat conservation plan and issued an incidental take permit to Buckeye Wind LLC in the Buckeye Wind Farm projects according to a press release issued on Thursday.
The permit allows for the incidental “take” of a small number of endangered Indiana bats at its proposed wind power project in eastern Champaign County. To offset the loss of Indiana bats, Buckeye Wind must follow the approved habitat conservation plan designed specifically for the Indiana bat.
Wildlife biologist Megan Seymour said the applicant company’s request of 130 bats was included in the permit and would average to 5.2 bats a year over the project’s expected 25 years of operation.
The habitat conservation plan includes measures to minimize impacts and ensure the long-term conservation of Indiana bats through off-site mitigation, which will offset the incidental take resulting from construction and operation of the facility, the release states. Under the Endangered Species Act, “take” means harming, harassing or killing endangered or threatened species.
“This is a first for Indiana bats and wind energy,” says Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “This habitat conservation plan is a positive step toward recovering the endangered Indiana bat and addressing this country’s future energy needs. The overall benefits to Indiana bat populations as a result of this plan would not have been achieved without the issuance of this permit.”
Before approving the permit, the service evaluated the possible effects of implementing Buckeye Wind’s habitat conservation plan and granting an incidental take permit.
The service issued a permit based on the applicant’s plan, which includes measures to reduce the likelihood of taking Indiana bats by modifying turbine operations during times when Indiana bats are most vulnerable to collision with turbine blades. These include spring and fall migrations as well as the summer maternity period, between sunset and sunrise.
Buckeye Wind’s habitat conservation plan addresses the Indiana bat’s conservation needs, the release states, including protecting and enhancing existing habitat, monitoring take through post-construction mortality studies, adaptive management, and funding of research to better understand Indiana bat and wind turbine interactions.
Michael Speerschneider, EverPower’s Senior Director for Permitting, states the approval of the permit is a step toward making the Buckeye Wind project a reality.
“We would like to thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their work on this consultation,” Speerschneider states in the release. “Because it is generated without harmful emissions and other impacts, wind power generally improves conditions for wildlife. Even so, we believe this permit is another important step for EverPower and for the wind industry that shows we are committed to environmental stewardship.”
With the Ohio Power Siting Board approving the second phase of the project in late May, more than 100 turbines are proposed to be constructed in eastern Champaign County. After this phase was approved, Champaign County commissioners and the townships of Goshen, Union and Urbana, the city of Urbana and citizens group Union Neighbors United all filed motions for rehearing with the board.
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