Are bald eagles at risk from wind turbines likely to be erected south of Rolette?
That’s a question that sparked a second hearing by the Public Service Commission today regarding a wind farm proposal.
PSC member Brian Kalk says a bald eagle was killed at a wind farm in southwest North Dakota this spring.
That – and the fact that nests have been documented in the vicinity of the proposed Rolette Power Development project.
The presence of two bald eagle nests south of Rolette forced a second public hearing on the plan.
Kalk told people in attendance today that he believes it’s important for the developers to have a solid plan to reduce risks to bald eagles.
That way, he says, if a bald eagle were killed sometime in the future, the operators could point to the steps they took to reduce the risk.
(Brian Kalk, Public Service Commissioner) “It is the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and they can levy a big fine if they choose to and so that’s why I think having an adequate plan not only develops a good record for the commission, but if you ever find yourself in those kinds of deliberations you can show that you’ve done everything that was reasonably possible so you reduce your risks.”
Kalk says he’s supportive of the wind project but wants to make sure all questions are answered before he votes ‘yes.’
Merle Boucher is one of the developers of the project.
He says he’s confident they can produce a good plan to protect bald eagles and get the project moving forward, perhaps with construction beginning next year.
(Merle Boucher, Rolette Power Development) “That’s a possibility and that’s what we’re shooting for. We’re getting late into 2015 but maybe 2016 and certainly the construction season of 2017 we feel is very doable.”
Rolette Power Development plans to erect 59 wind turbines south of Rolette to generate about 100 megawatts of electricity.
The group presented a proposed plan for protecting bald eagles and reducing the chances of a bald eagle death due to the wind turbines.
The PSC is expected to issue a ruling on the site permit in the next several weeks.
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