Wildlife conservationists have raised concerns for a proposed wind farm in Atchison County that could impact the migration of birds into Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
Tradewind Energy based in Lenexa, Kansas, is planning to build around 150 wind turbines that are about 500 feet tall as part of the Rock Creek Wind Project covering 30,000 acres of land. The turbines will be placed between the city of Tarkio in the center of the county and Tarkio Prairie Conservation Area in the eastern part of the county.
The county currently has around 100 turbines in operation in the western part of the county.
Janet Sternberg, policy coordinator from the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the proposed project is in the migratory corridor for species that fly into the refuge from Iowa.
“We try to encourage the wind companies to go to already disturbed lands to site turbines,” she said. “We also ask them to stay away from forested patches primarily because it’s beneficial for the bats, and the larger raptor species will use those larger patches for nesting, so you’re kind of helping keep projects away from those areas, too.”
Ms. Sternberg said the conservation department and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service do not have regulations for the placement of wind turbines, but they do attend meetings with the companies.
She said the studies on the impact to birds and bats is being conducted by Todd Mattson from the wind company Element Power that had proposed the Mill Creek Wind Farm near the refuge last year. The wind farm was later canceled due to the potential impact on protected birds and bats from the project.
According to Tradewind’s website, the results of the wildlife studies conducted by the third party indicates that there will be no impact to threatened or endangered species.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has recommended Tradewind write an environmental assessment and apply for permits to allow protected species such as eagles to be killed at the facility. The permits would allow for efforts to be launched in other areas to offset species impacted. The service says companies operating without a permit for protected species are operating at the risk federal penalties.
However, Tradewind has not opted to apply for the permits or released a conservation assessment.
Ms. Sternberg said the department recommends that wind companies consider impacts to birds and bats along with terrestrial wildlife and those that live underground.
Curtis Livengood, an Atchison County commissioner, said county officials met with Tradewind over the summer. He said the company has met the county’s enhanced enterprise zone criteria for building and he supports the development as long as it acquires the appropriate permits.
Repeated attempts to contact project manager Rod Northway for a map of the proposed project and wildlife studies has not been returned.
For more information on the Rock Creek Wind Farm visit http://tradewindenergy.com/project/rock-creek-wind.
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