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State might let wind farm kill more bats

A Maui wind farm wants the government to increase the number of endangered Hawaiian hoary bats it is allowed to kill, after passing the limit 15 years ahead of schedule.

SunEdison Inc., owner of the 21-megawatt wind facility called Kaheawa Wind Power II, requested to increase the amount of hoary bats the facility is allowed to kill to 62 from 11 bats over its 20-year project with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

DLNR proposed to approve the increase in a bulletin called the Environmental Notice from the Office of Environmental Quality Control, released Thursday.

“The proposed action would result in benefits at the local and state level by producing clean, renewable energy in line with Hawaii’s clean-energy goals,” DLNR said in the notice. “Effects to the Hawaiian hoary bat and nene would be offset by funding research, restoration, or land acquisition to mitigate for the take of each species. Based on the mitigation efforts, no adverse impacts to either species is anticipated.”

In the fourth year of the project’s life, the facility killed 19 bats, according to an October report from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife presented to the 2017 state Legislature.

SunEdison didn’t respond to two voicemails requesting comment. Kaheawa Wind Power II, near Maalaea, Maui, is one of the state’s five major wind farms listed in the report that have been killing the bats at a faster pace than expected.

In total the state’s wind farms have killed 146 Hawaiian hoary bats out of the 187 they are allowed. They’ve killed that many in 6.4 years while they were expected not to reach the total for 20 years or more.

The facility has set aside $400,000 for conservation plans. The plans include building predator control traps, which are planned to be built in fiscal year 2017.

Kaheawa Wind Power II is improving 338 acres of land for its conservation plan for Hawaiian hoary bats. The area is set to be monitored for hoofed animals and vegetation that could pose a threat to the bat’s habitat.

With money from Kaheawa Wind II, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife installed approximately 2.8 miles of fence in July 2014 to protect a portion of the Nakula Natural Area Reserve and the Kahikinui Forest Reserve. Since October 2014, 688 feral goats and 18 feral pigs have been sent away from the area. The state Division of Forestry continues to inspect and maintain the fence.

Additional habitat conservation efforts proposed by SunEdison include restoring bat habitats, funding bat research and continuing to provide funding for an existing pen at a site where nene regularly forage or nest.

Members of the public who are interested have until March 28 to send in comments about SunEdison’s request to DLNR. Emails should be addressed to Glenn.M.Metzler@hawaii. gov.