April 23, 2014

Bird groups challenging another wind turbine project

Written by Larry Limpf | Monday, 21 April 2014 | www.presspublications.com

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory and American Bird Conservancy are challenging another wind turbine project, contending its location poses considerable risk to migrating songbirds.

In an April 4 letter to the Ohio Power Siting Board, Kim Kaufman, executive director of the observatory, and Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the conservancy’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign, say they have many of the same concerns regarding the proposed location of the LEEDCo. wind turbine project in Lake Erie near Cleveland as they did about a turbine project proposed for Camp Perry near Oak Harbor.

Lake Erie Energy Development Co. is proposing to erect six turbines with a total capacity of 18 megawatts. The turbines would be located about seven to nine miles offshore.

“As you may know, the south shore of Lake Erie is a major migration bottleneck for Neotropical migrants flying north from Central and South America to breed in the boreal forests of Canada,” the letter says. “Bird movements in such areas, especially during adverse weather events, are more volatile and hence less predictable than they are on nesting or wintering grounds. As a result, there is a high likelihood of major mortality events involving federally protected birds associated with wind turbines in this area.”

The presence of wind turbines in open water also make it more difficult to assess bird fatalities compared to turbines located on land, the letter says: “Such assessments are critical for the enforcement of our nation’s wildlife laws and for determining post-construction mitigation and compensation.”

LEEDCo. filed its application for a certificate of environmental compatibility with the siting board in February.

Todd Snitchler, board chairman, in an April 7 letter to company attorneys, wrote that the application doesn’t contain sufficient information for the board’s staff to begin its review.

Letters expressing concerns of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were attached to Snitchler’s letter.

Mary Knapp, field supervisor for the fish and wildlife service, wrote that her agency and the ODNR haven’t completed studies of the fisheries in the proposed project area “thus this application should be deemed incomplete.”

A monitoring plan is also needed, she writes. “Any and all results of post-construction mortality studies must be provided to both ODNR and the USFWS. This should be included as a condition of their certificate.”

John Kessler, of the ODNR, wrote in an April 7 letter to the siting board that the department’s division of wildlife found the application “not complete enough to conduct a proper technical review.”

The division of geological survey expressed concerns “the applicants proposed design may not reflect knowledge of the potential magnitude of Lake Erie ice ridge formation.”

Lawsuit threat
A letter of intent to sue the Ohio National Guard and an on-going petition effort were enough to convince federal officials to at least temporarily halt plans for constructing a wind turbine at Camp Perry.

The conservancy and observatory in January praised the decision by the National Guard Bureau office in Maryland to withdraw a key finding to the project.

The bird organizations had submitted a letter of intent to sue the National Guard, claiming the proposed turbine project violated the Endangered Species Act as well as other federal environmental and conservation laws.

In response, the National Guard, in a letter dated Jan. 28 to a public interest law firm representing the bird groups, said it is withdrawing the Finding of No Significant Impact.

“I have received your Notification of Intent letter, dated January 8, 2014. After carefully considering your objections to the August 22, 2013 Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), for the wind turbine technologies project at the Camp Perry Air National Guard Station, I have decided to withdraw the FONSI for the project effective immediately,” the letter from Col. Peter A. Sartori, Director, Installations and Mission Support, states. “Since the FONSI has been withdrawn, the project will not go forward at this time.

“My environmental staff at the National Guard Bureau will review and coordinate the Environmental Assessment and all supporting documentation in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as compliance with other environmental statutes, including the Endangered Species Act.”

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2014/04/23/bird-groups-challenging-another-wind-turbine-project/