WESTOVER – The U.S. Wildlife Service will propose an eagle-taking permit during an Environmental Assessment on Wednesday.
The proposal comes amid concerns that anticipated wind turbines in the area could cause eagle deaths and negative health effects.
An informational session followed by a public comment period to address potential impacts of the permit will be held at the J.M. Tawes Technology & Career Center in Somerset County.
The Great Bay Wind Energy Center, in partnership with Pioneer Green Energy, will construct the 25 wind turbines, estimated to be at least 500 feet tall with 150-foot blades, according to the company.
Adam Cohen, vice president at Pioneer Green, said the turbines will rest on 10,000 acres of land in the Westover area. Pioneer Green predicts the $200 million project will contribute millions of dollars in tax revenue to Somerset County schools and create local maintenance jobs.
“It will generate over $44 million in tax revenue for schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure in Somerset,” Cohen said.
Great Bay has also opened an office in Princess Anne, and Cohen said he thinks its proximity to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore will generate new energy jobs and increased knowledge about clean energy.
Rick Peterman, a landowner who is leasing part of his farmland to Pioneer Green, said the project will help his family financially.
“My family has had this farm for generations, and the additional income will keep the farm in the family,” he said.
However, Somerset resident Tammy Truitt, who lives about 1.8 miles from the nearest turbine area, said she thinks it is merely for economic benefits and feared officials are not paying attention to health concerns associated with them.
Truitt said people in other states who live near turbines have complained to her about heart and blood pressure issues.
“This is not about renewable energy, it’s about tax credits and money being shifted to wind developers,” she said.
Ryan Taylor, a bioacoustics expert in Salisbury, said residents could suffer from what experts have termed “wind turbine syndrome,” which includes bouts of dizziness and extensive fatigue.
“They (turbines) will be quite noisy; low-frequency sounds can penetrate houses and cause long-term sleep disturbance,” Taylor said.
Pioneer Green also faces another obstacle: eagles who may be harmed by flying into the turbines. Between 2008 and 2012, 70 golden eagles died after striking wind turbines in 10 states, including Texas, Iowa and Maryland.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will issue a Programmatic Take Permit for area bald and golden eagles, requiring compliance monitoring from the company to ensure avoidance. It has the ability to reduce company liability for “incidental” takes.
Eagle coordinator Sarah Nystrom said a third-party inspector will conduct an examination to determine the amount of eagles taken.
“The permit authorizes a certain amount of takes. There will be incidental takes that can’t be avoided, but we try to determine what the maximum amount would be for those takings,” Nystrom said.
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