ERIE TOWNSHIP – Plans for a taxpayer-funded 198-foot wind turbine at Camp Perry have been revived, ruffling the feathers of birding groups across northwest Ohio who fought against it several years ago.
Two years ago, the Air National Guard’s plans for the $1.5 million wind turbine at the Camp Perry Joint Training Center grounds were halted after an outcry of opposition from the American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory.
The groups said the turbines would endanger migrating birds and bald eagles and hurt the local economy.
In January 2014, plans for the 198-foot turbine were suspended, but now they are back on. The National Guard is in the final stages of completing an environmental assessment, subject to review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The birding groups filed a letter of intent to sue two years ago, claiming the project would violate the Endangered Species Act and other federal conservation and environmental laws.
The groups gathered more than 5,000 signatures on a petition in opposition to the project, which they contend will endanger migratory birds that use the major North American flyway in the spring.
Spinning turbines can potentially affect shipping, disrupt views and endanger birds and other wildlife, the group argued.
Besides the threat to bald eagles, waterfowl and migratory birds, the group believes the wind turbine would have an affect on the local economy, which has seen a boom in birding visitors from around the world.
According to statistics from the Lake Erie Shores & Islands tourism board, the region gets about $37 million in economic impact from an estimated 75,000 visitors during the peak migration months of April and May.
On Monday, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory posted ‘a call to arms’ on its Facebook page, citing years of working ‘tirelessly to build birding tourism into a major asset for northwest Ohio.’
“BSBO’s ‘Biggest Week In American Birding’ has put this region on the international map, extended the tourism season by a full month, and brought birders around the world to northwest Ohio each spring,” the post stated.
“Now, the bird observatory needs all the help we can muster to protect this resource from a project where the end goal is to open the lakeshore to commercial wind energy.”
The group said it plans to call for support from the Great Lakes Commission, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, elected officials, community leaders, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors’ bureaus and “and every individual who cares about birds, asking them to help us protect Ohio’s shoreline from commercial wind energy development.”
The turbine would require approvals from various state and federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Aviation Administration.
A larger 325-foot tall turbine was placed at the Lake Erie Business Park, just a few miles to the west of Camp Perry, about three years ago. National and local birding groups opposed that project as well.
A billboard placed on the west side of the turbine states: “Keep wind turbines off our lake shore. Protect bald eagles, waterfowl, bird watching, tourism and the local economy.”
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