(Washington, D.C., Oct. 25, 2016) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) have filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Ohio Air National Guard (ANG) for violations of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws in the course of planning to build a large wind turbine at its Camp Perry facility in Ottawa County, Ohio. Close to the shores of Lake Erie, the site lies within a major bird migration corridor and would be the first wind energy development on public land in this ecologically sensitive area.
In a letter sent yesterday by the Washington, D.C.-based public-interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks to the ANG and other federal officials, the two groups assert that ANG has unlawfully compromised and short-circuited the environmental review process for the Camp Perry wind facility. The letter states that the development of the project is taking place in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
“The site is located within one of the world’s largest confluences of migratory birds and bats, making it among the most poorly placed wind projects in the United States,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “It flies in the face of the Department of Defense’s exemplary record of wildlife conservation on military lands.”
The Camp Perry facility presents an extremely high risk to migrating songbirds, especially the federally endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. Other birds at risk include migrating songbirds, raptors including Bald Eagles, and waterfowl. Located less than a mile from Lake Erie and close to the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge, this project violates the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s (FWS) own recommendation that no turbine be built within 3 miles of the Great Lakes shoreline.
Poorly sited wind energy projects can have significant adverse impacts on migratory birds and other wildlife. FWS has repeatedly expressed concerns that migratory birds such as the federally protected Bald Eagle would be harmed by the Camp Perry turbine. Such “take” is a violation of the MBTA and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. ANG has not requested, let alone obtained, a take permit from the FWS, even though it has acknowledged that federal agencies are required to comply with these laws and that one purpose of the project is to “study” the adverse impacts of building a wind turbine near a major migratory route.
“We continue to be baffled by the ANG’s determination to install a wind turbine in this Globally Important Bird Area, when local, regional, and national bird conservation organizations have presented a united front against it,” said Kim Kaufman, Executive Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor, Ohio. “It’s especially hard to understand when you consider that an expansion of their existing solar array would not only generate more renewable energy, but would be a move that birders, conservationists, and local citizens would applaud.”
ABC and BSBO have challenged the Camp Perry project before, issuing an intent to sue notice in 2014 that brought it to a temporary halt. ANG agreed to stop the process until it had gone through the proper procedures, but built a foundation for the proposed wind turbine (at the cost of $200,000 to taxpayers) before it had completed a new Environmental Assessment (EA) or obtained a Biological Opinion (BiOp) from FWS—a violation of the ESA and NEPA.
ANG has now completed an EA and received a BiOp from FWS, but in the view of ABC and BSBO, these assessments are inadequate:
- wind energy; in this case, distributed solar on the base’s already built environment would be one such option. However, an expansion of distributed solar was not considered, according to the EA. The Camp Perry EA only provides two alternatives—build or don’t build—which represents a violation of NEPA.
- The validity of both the Camp Perry EA and BiOp is called into doubt by a new radar study by FWS, which showed that vast numbers of migratory birds and bats move through the area, flying at altitudes that would bring them within the rotor-swept zone of the Camp Perry turbine.
“The ANG’s Environmental Assessment and FWS’s Biological Opinion were issued just before the FWS’s advanced radar study was published. This is highly problematic, especially since the results of this study essentially invalidate both documents,” Hutchins said.
“The fact that the Ohio Air National Guard has gone through the motions and developed a perfunctory Environmental Assessment does nothing to allay our concerns about this turbine, which would be located in one of the worst possible locations for bird and bat conservation—and on public land,” Hutchins added. “Allowing this development to proceed would open the door to yet more wind energy development on the shores of the Great Lakes.”
American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.
Black Swamp Bird Observatory is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit whose mission is to inspire the appreciation, enjoyment, and conservation of birds and their habitats through research, education, and outreach.