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Nature groups weigh concerns over wind farm  

Credit:  By Margaret Slayton | St. Joseph News-Press | April 24, 2014 | www.newspressnow.com ~~

Individuals and conservation organizations recently expressed concerns about the location of what could be the largest wind farm in Missouri.

The Mill Creed Wind Farm is being constructed by Element Power in Holt., Mo. Scott Zeimetz, Element project manager, said the company is planning to build 84 to 118 wind turbines that will produce 200 megawatts of electricity.

Zeimetz said Element has leased more than 30,000 acres of private land in the county since 2010.

A map from Element shows that the turbines’ locations lie between Squaw Creek and seven conservation areas.

Missouri State Director of The Nature Conservancy, Todd Sampsell, said in a written statement that his organization owns land in the proposed impact area and, though the group supports alternative energy, they were unaware of the proposed wind farm and have concerns.

“As a landowner with scientific expertise in these types of projects, we would appreciate an opportunity to review plans and comment on siting and other potential impacts to land, water and wildlife resources,” Sampsell said.

Dr. Michael Hutchins is the National Coordinator for the Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) based in Washington, D.C.

He said Squaw Creek was designated by the organization as one of America’s top 500 most important Bird Conservation Areas in North America in 2001. He said they consider it to be a Globally Important Bird Conservation Area.

In a statement addressed to Element, Hutchins outlined questions concerning the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The letter states that the federally endangered Piping Plover and Indiana Bat are present in the area. In addition, the state species of concern include American Bitterns and Peregrine Falcons.

He said the group is determining if an Environmental Impact Statement has or has not been completed.

“We will be watching the whole process very closely,” Hutchins said. “This particular project appears to be very poorly sited from the perspective of bird and bat conservation.”

The local chapters of the Midland Empire Audubon Society and the Burroughs Audubon of the Greater Kansas City Chapter in Blue Springs, Mo., also have issued statements opposing the wind farm location.

Christine Kline is an Important Bird Area (IBA) Committee Chair of the Burroughs Audubon of the Greater Kansas City Chapter.

She said the refuge lies between the Mississippi Flyway and the Central Flyway and that the area harbors birds from both. She said as a result there are approximately 310 bird species that annually fly through the refuge making it one of the largest counts in the country.

“Placing a wind farm not only near Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge but near the only critical IBA in the state of Missouri is a source of concern for me,” Kline said. “In my opinion, the economic impact the refuge brings to Holt County will not be replaced by a wind farm. It’s not just about the wildlife. It’s about economics and the well-being of businesses that rely on the hunters and outfitters the refuge brings each year.”

Edge Wade, a conservation partnership coordinator for the Audubon Society of Missouri, said the group is actively gathering information and has the goal of forming a partnership with ABC.

She said the group opposes the placement of any wind turbines in the area and the refuge and nearby conservation areas and private land form a wetland complex.

“Birds will not just be flying over the area, but they will be landing in it and taking off from it,” Wade said.

She said some bird species, particularly ducks, feed on agriculture land. She added that group is also concerned about songbirds and shorebirds and said each bird species could be impacted differently.

Dr. David A. Easterla is an emeritus distinguished professor of biology at Northwest Missouri State. He initiated and advised the Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation degree program at the university before recently retiring. He is also the co-author of the book Birds of Missouri: Their Distribution and Abundance.

Easterla said he opposes the location of the Mill Creek Wind Farm.

“The birds catch an up-draft from the winds in the Loess Hills and they simply soar up high and then glide either south or north depending on if its spring or fall,” Easterla said. “As a result, there is tremendous bird migration in the Loess Hills.”

He said though bird migration peaks in the fall and spring, there is year-round migration. He said water birds, shorebirds and songbirds migrate into the refuge, conservation areas and river at different times.

He said he has seen the federally endangered Piping Plover numerous times on the refuge.

In addition, he said a photo of two federally endangered Whooping Cranes and the state-endangered Sandhill Crane that was documented in the 1950s on the refuge, has been published in the book.

Matt Hughes, a union electrician for a wind turbine company, said the average wind turbine is 320 feet tall with a 120- foot-long wind blade. He said the 14-foot hub the blades are bolted to will increase the length of the blades to 127 feet. He said the ideal speed for a wind turbine is 10 rpm turns that move 136 miles per hour to 150 miles per hour on the blade tip.

Local birder Jack Hilsabeck said he received a letter from Rep. Sam Graves’ office on the proposed Mill Creek Wind Farm.

The letter states that wind energy is an important source of alternative energy and that a research project by The Government Accountability Office indicates that wind power does not appear to be responsible for a significant number of bird deaths.

“Wind power is a good source of energy we have available to us here in Missouri,” said the letter signed by Rep. Graves. “It is important that we develop it as part of our plan to improve our air. We should not burden a developing industry with even more government regulation.”

Source:  By Margaret Slayton | St. Joseph News-Press | April 24, 2014 | www.newspressnow.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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