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State wildlife officials oppose Hancock County turbine project

OSBORN, Maine – The state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has taken at least some of the wind out of the sails of a planned SunEdison commercial wind farm in Hancock County by opposing the project out of concern for bats and birds.

The proposed Weaver Wind farm would consist of 23 turbines, each nearly 600 feet tall, eight of which would be in Eastbrook and 15 of which would be in Osborn. Studies of the proposed project site – which would abut the Bull Hill Wind farm in Township 16 where 19 turbines, each 476 feet tall, were erected in 2012 – show that the potential impact on migrating birds could be fairly high.

A June 15 draft analysis written by staff at the state Department of Environmental Protection indicates that the impact of the Bull Hill Wind site on birds already is estimated to be significant. The addition of more turbines in the area – including 18 in a third, already permitted but not yet constructed SunEdison project called Hancock Wind – would make the cumulative effect even more so.

In all, SunEdison (which acquired First Wind earlier this year) is proposing to have 60 commercial-scale turbines operating on several ridges in Eastbrook, Osborn and in the neighboring townships 16 and 22.

“[Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife] reviewed the proposed project and commented that MDIF&W is concerned with the risks to migrating birds and bats posed by the Weaver Wind Project,” the draft analysis indicates. “Avian passage rate, which is an index to mortality risk, was the highest recorded for any project in northern New England and fatality estimates of birds at the nearby Bull Hill Wind Project also were the highest recorded in the [same] region.”

There are no specific numbers cited in the document about what estimated mortality rate is. But it indicates that DIF&W believes the risk is too high to allow the project to proceed.

“MDIF&W believes the proposed project poses an undue risk of mortality to birds, particularly songbirds, during spring migration,” DEP staff wrote in the document. “Given the Bull Hill Project is already operational and that the Hancock Wind Project is permitted, MDIF&W believes that the proposed Weaver Wind Project will represent significant adverse cumulative impact to migrating birds, and recommends denial of the Weaver Wind Project.”

Staff at DIF&W were not available Friday morning for comment. Voicemail messages left Friday morning for officials at Maine DEP and at SunEdison were not immediately returned.

Attempts Friday morning to contact town officials in Osborn and Eastbrook also were unsuccessful.