WASHINGTON, D.C. – An Ohio birding group has joined with a national bird conservation organization in an attempt to block the construction of a large wind turbine near Lake Erie.
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory, based in Ottawa County, suspects the wind turbine planned for Camp Perry near Port Clinton would pose a danger to migrating birds and bats in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
The BSBO and American Bird Conservancy this week filed a notice of intent to press a federal lawsuit against the Ohio Air National Guard, based at Camp Perry, within 60 days.
The planned construction site is located less than a mile from Lake Erie and is situated within one of the largest confluences of migratory birds and bats in the world, said Michael Hutchins, director of the conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign.
Hutchins called the $1.5 million, taxpayer-funded turbine “among the most poorly placed wind projects in the United States. It flies in the face of the Department of Defense’s exemplary record of wildlife conservation on military lands.”
A spokeswoman from the Air National Guard was unavailable for comment.
According to BSBO Executive Director Kim Kaufman, the Camp Perry turbine would present an extremely high risk to migrating songbirds, especially the endangered Kirtland’s warbler, the rarest warbler in North America.
Other birds potentially at risk include migrating hawks, eagles, ducks and geese, Kaufman said.
“We continue to be baffled by the Air National Guard’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,” Kaufman said.
She said an expansion of the Guard’s existing solar farms would generate more renewable energy and be applauded by birders, conservationists and local citizens.
In 2014, the BSBO and Bird Conservancy successfully halted construction of the 600-kilowatt wind turbine after determining the Air National Guard had failed to obtain the proper certifications.
Since then, the National Guard has completed an environmental assessment and obtained permission from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which the BSBO and Conservancy maintain are inadequate. The birding groups cited a new radar study that showed vast numbers of migratory birds and bats move through the area, flying at altitudes that would bring them within the 198-foot rotor-swept zone of the Camp Perry turbine.
“This is highly problematic, especially since the results of this study essentially invalidate both documents,” Hutchins said.
The issues at the center of the Camp Perry wind turbine dispute likely would not apply to Cleveland’s Icebreaker project, which calls for six turbines to be built in Lake Erie eight to 11 miles from the Cleveland harbor, said Lorry Wagner, president of the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo. Construction of the $40 million project is expected to begin in 2018.
“Camp Perry and our site are dramatically different,” Wagner said. “Theirs is near the migratory flyway through the marshes and the islands, in an entirely different eco-system than ours. The bird population offshore is a fraction of the birds onshore.
“But we understand there are concerns from people and we want to make sure we get it right,” Wagner said.
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