Wind turbines are touted as an environmentally friendly answer to the carbon-producing fossil fuels blamed for contributing to global warming.
But plans for wind turbines at Camp Perry and the Lake Erie Business Park that will stand in the path of important bird migration areas in Ottawa County alarm birders who say the turbines are likely to kill many birds. They’ve erected a billboard on Ohio 2 near the planned wind turbine sites to display their concern.
“We’re not opposed to wind power in general. This area is so critically important to wildlife,” said Kenn Kaufman, an author and birder who sits on the board of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. “If you were looking for a place to put up a turbine where it would do the maximum amount of damage to bird life, that’s basically it”
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory is conducting a campaign against the wind turbines and has an online petition on its website.
An official with the Ohio National Guard said that the design for Camp Perry’s wind turbine has been modified to minimize impact on birds. A spokesman for the Lake Erie Business Park did not respond to phone calls.
Kaufman, an Oak Harbor resident who began birding at age 6, once almost set a record for the number of birds seen in one year. He writes books and blogs about birds. His wife, Kimberly, also is a well-known birder.
Kaufman said the Lake Erie shoreline is an important bird stopover area where the animals land and take off in the dim light of dusk and dawn. Ottawa County also is an important location for nesting pairs of the bald eagle, America’s national bird.
“We know from experience elsewhere that eagles do get killed from wind turbines” he said.
Moving the wind turbines 10 miles south would lessen their impact on birds, he said.
Kaufman said he knows that an environmental impact report prepared for the Camp Perry wind turbine cleared the way for the project but said he has little faith in it.
“They paid a lot of money for this environmental assessment,” he said. “They came back and told them what they wanted to hear”
Mark Wayda, vice chief of the joint staff of the Ohio National Guard, said the $1.5 million wind turbine at Camp Perry was funded by an earmark from U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo. The 600-kilowatt turbine is under construction and expected to be completed in February, Wayda said.
The wind turbine will be about 200 feet tall from the ground to the tip of the blade, he said.
A full environmental assessment was completed and vetted with officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wayda said.
“There was a finding of no significant impact,” he said.
Once the wind turbine goes into operation, “We’re going to conduct a year’s research for a post construction impact study, for both the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources,” Wayda said.
“The design of the thing was changed to address some of the concerns that were out there,” Wayda said. The tower was redesigned to be lower and the wind turbine will be horizontal rather than vertical, he said.
The Ohio National Guard has been trying to minimize its carbon footprint, Wayda said. Camp Perry has a new solar panel and a National Guard air base in Toledo gets half of its power from solar, he said.
Plans for the nearby Lake Erie Business Park are less clear. A diagram mapping features of the industrial park shows the location of six planned wind turbines. The base of one of the turbines at the business park is visible, Kaufman said.
James E. McKinney, listed as the point of contact for the business park, did not respond to requests for comment left on his office phone and cell phone.
Kaufman said that when the Ohio Division of Wildlife called McKinney, “he hung up on them. Other people have gotten a similar response”
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