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Camp Perry shelves plan for 198-foot wind turbine; Bird advocates’ objections put project on hold

PORT CLINTON – Camp Perry’s plan to install a commercial-scale wind turbine has been suspended indefinitely, if not halted for good.

A letter dated Tuesday and signed by Air Force Col. Peter Sartori, director of installations and mission support and an officer in the National Guard Bureau, stated the project “will not go forward at this time” because of objections.

The letter was addressed to William Eubanks II, a Washington attorney representing the American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Conservancy.

The two advocacy groups have opposed the Camp Perry project and an adjacent one at the Lake Erie Business Park.

Both projects are in Ottawa County, off State Rt. 2 and along a stretch of western Lake Erie shoreline that biologists consider prime avian habitat. Both are part of two major North American flyways.

Camp Perry had been considered as a site for a taxpayer-funded, 198-foot turbine that would cost $1.5 million.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who helped secure funds for that project, “appreciates the professional manner in which the Guard has conducted itself,” and “commends the birding community for its tenacious advocacy on the issue,” according to a statement from her communications director, Steve Fought.

The Lake Erie Business Park recently erected a 325-foot turbine.

James Sims, an Ohio National Guard spokesman, said he was unsure what the headquarters’ decision would mean to the project’s fate. He said officials plan more discussion in coming days.

Mark Wayda, Ohio National Guard vice chief of the joint staff, said he had nothing to add to Colonel Sartori’s letter. Colonel Sartori could not be reached.

The birding organizations declared victory but said their fight continues.

“Our opportunities to work with the Air National Guard now seem a lot more positive than they did before,” said Kimberly Kaufman, executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. “We’re going to celebrate this as a victory for birds, but we’re not going to rest on it.”

Ms. Kaufman said the groups plan to use legal research from this case to challenge other projects that endanger birds and will lobby for statewide laws to better regulate wind-turbine site selection.

The American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Conservancy said they had filed a letter of intent to sue, claiming the project would violate the Endangered Species Act and other federal conservation and environmental laws. They gathered more than 5,000 signatures on a petition opposing the project, which they contend would endanger migratory birds because of its proximity to western Lake Erie.

Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the American Bird Conservancy’s wind-energy campaign, called the Guard’s decision “a heartening victory for the environment and for birds.”

“While we support wind energy as a sustainable energy resource, we insist that turbines be sited where their impacts to birds and other wildlife can be minimized. This project was among the worst we have seen in that regard. We applaud the government’s decision to reconsider this project,” he said.

The decision does not prevent the National Guard from reviving the project.

The birding organizations will encourage the government to place more solar panels at Camp Perry, Ms. Kaufman said.

Mark Shieldcastle, a retired wildlife biologist who for years led Ohio’s bald-eagle recovery efforts for the state Department of Natural Resources, said the shoreline projects have been a “black eye” for the wind industry.

The proposed Camp Perry turbine made “a mockery of the federal government’s guidelines” to protect birds from wind turbines, according to Mr. Shieldcastle, now Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s research director.