SWANTON – Swanton Wind has filed reports showing what kind of wildlife inhabits the area around its proposed wind site on Rocky Ridge.
The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) asked for the data, explained Anthony Iarrapino, an attorney for the project, although what is in the study is still preliminary.
ANR is an automatic party to all proceedings before the Public Service Board (PSB). If Swanton Wind files for a certificate of good to build the towers, then ANR will be required to present its findings about potential impacts on the state’s natural resources, including water quality and wildlife.
The agency must decide whether the project can go forward while protecting state resources and what steps must be taken to ensure that protection, explained Iarrapino.
While ANR will do an independent analysis, “the project bears a burden of demonstrating the wind farm can be built in a way that protects wildlife and water quality,” said Iarrapino.
Biologists hired by developers Travis and Ashley Belisle are currently determining what steps need to be taken to minimize wildlife impacts, said Iarrapino.
Other wind projects have shown it is possible to protect wildlife and water quality, he added.
A revised site plan does show proposed locations for stormwater mitigation. “We’re tailoring the various design elements to site conditions,” said Iarrapino.
The data given to ANR identifies deer habitat and bear crossings, along with bat and bird species that make use of the area of the proposed seven wind turbines on Rocky Ridge, which is located off of Route 105 near the Swanton and St. Albans Town line.
Stantec Environmental spent 10 days in the spring and 10 in the fall surveying raptor migration through the proposed development.
While no federally endangered or threatened species were observed, Stantec did sight four bald eagles in the spring and 12 in the fall. While no longer federally listed as endangered, bald eagles are still listed as endangered in Vermont.
All of the fall sightings occurred within the areas where turbines are proposed, as did three of the spring sightings.
Stantec also found that of the 73 percent raptor flights were below the height of the proposed towers.
The most commonly spotted vulture during the spring was the turkey vulture, with 161 sightings. In the fall the most commonly spotted raptor was the redtailed hawk, with 107 sightings.
What the sightings may mean remains uncertain, however. Stantec’s report cautioned: “After analyzing results from 63 standardized surveys conducted between 2007 and 2011, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) concluded that neither preconstruction nor post-construction raptor surveys could predict raptor mortality at wind facilities,” the report states.
Stantec also looked at surveys of operating wind turbines in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire and found no raptor collisions reported over 996 hours of observation.
During the Stantec also spotted survey, the common loon and the great blue heron, both identified as species of the greatest conservation need within Vermont.
Stantec also surveyed bat populations at the site over the spring and summer. One set of detectors simply recorded the number of bat sounds found, while another recorded the sounds in an effort to identify the species.
Nine bat found species in Vermont, are and either the state or the federal government considers most threatened or endangered.
The detector identified 137 calls from little brown bats, a state endangered species, and 14 from the federally endangered Indiana bat. It is not known how many individual bats made the calls.
One set of detectors identified more than 3,000 bat calls between April 15 and Sept. 30.
Stantec also did three surveys of breeding pairs of birds in May and June, finding no endangered or threatened species.
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