March 17, 2015

Injunction sought over alleged wind turbine threat to eagles, other protected species in Upper Peninsula

By John Agar | March 16, 2015 |

DELTA COUNTY, MI – An Upper Peninsula group has filed for an injunction to stop construction of power-generating wind turbines on Lake Michigan’s northern shore that it says pose a risk to endangered species of migrating birds.

Garden Peninsula Foundation in January filed a lawsuit against Traverse City-based Heritage Sustainable Energy LLC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The group is seeking damages for loss of quality of life and asked that the project be re-evaluated or abandoned.

Garden Peninsula Foundation filed for a temporary injunction to halt any construction while the lawsuit proceeds through U.S. District Court in Marquette.

“… (T)he expansion of Defendant’s proposed wind turbine project will result in the ‘taking’ of federal protected specials, the Kirtland’s warbler and Piping plover, because (a) construction will impair habitat and (b) construction, erection, and operation of the wind turbines will kill and/or injure Kirtland’s warbler and Piping plover who live, forage, migrate and mate on or in close proximity to the current proposed site of the wind turbines,” attorneys Susan Hlywa Topp and Michelle Halley wrote in the request for an injunction.

The attorneys wrote that “the projects would ‘take’ Bald and Gold eagles in violation of the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act.”

Garden Peninsula maintains that Heritage intends to construct 21 turbines this year.

“The Garden Peninsula in Delta County, Michigan, is home to generations of farmers and is a rural and picturesque community on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is also a well-known migratory bird haven in a crucial migratory pathway and is used for nesting, foraging and migration by numerous birds including Kirtland’s warbler, Piping plover, Bald and Gold eagles and other endangered, threatened, or protected species,” the group’s attorneys wrote.

Heritage Sustainable Energy contends that seven years of pre-construction and post-construction studies and monitoring showed that Heritage Garden Wind Farm had “minimal impact to birds … .”

The wind farm became operational in September 2012, with 14 2-megawatt wind turbines.

“Predictions made by anti-wind groups of massive bird fatalities at the HGWF are proven to be completely inaccurate,” the company said on its website.

“The entire HGWF causes fewer bird fatalities in a year than a single house cat.”

A study showed the wind farm has had no significant impact on any of the bird species during the first two years of operation, the company said. The turbines pose “only a very minor and insignificant threat” to bald eagles.

Heritage Garden Wind Farm generates enough power to supply nearly half the households in Delta County, the company says.

The lawsuit says the Fish and Wildlife Service strongly disagreed with an expert for Heritage over his assessment of avian risk, and said it “is likely to pose a very high risk for avian mortalities, including a high risk for bald eagle mortalities,” the lawsuit said.

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