BENTON TOWNSHIP – Bird conservation groups are declaring victory in their fight against a proposed wind turbine project at Camp Perry after being informed that the plans are no longer moving forward.
The wind turbine project was initially revived last year by the Ohio Air National Guard, proposing a taxpayer-funded $1.5 million, 198-foot wind turbine at the Camp Perry Joint Training Center. The plan had been halted several years earlier following similar opposition from organizations such as the American Bird Conservancy and local Black Swamp Bird Observatory.
The groups argued that the turbine would pose a “grave threat” to migrating birds, bald eagles and bats, hurting not only the local ecology but the economy as well.
Camp Perry, located on the Lake Erie shoreline northwest of Port Clinton, is just over 10 miles from one of the country’s most popular birding locations, Magee Marsh, where people from all over the world travel to see rare migrating shore birds and songbirds.
The plans for the turbine would have placed the structure less than a mile from the lakeshore, which the conservancy groups pointed out was in contrast to recommendations made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that no turbines be built within three miles of the Great Lakes shoreline due to the potential impact on migratory populations.
Following the project’s revival last year, opposition to the project arose once again both vocally and visibly, utilizing platforms ranging from social media to billboards.
But according to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the groups’ final effort was a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court earlier this year with their partners at the American Bird Conservancy.
The lawsuit contended that the project violated the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.
In June, the National Guard Bureau responded and informed the conservation organizations through legal counsel that the Air National Guard would no longer be pursuing the construction of the turbine at Camp Perry.
Describing that resolution to the case as a “landmark victory,” the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and American Bird Conservancy subsequently agreed to drop the lawsuit, filing for its dismissal late last week.
According to court records, the motion to dismiss the lawsuit specifically references a letter from the National Guard Bureau stating that the Air National Guard has not authorized any final action regarding the turbine’s construction and has no plans to take further action on the project or its review.
It may be the conclusion to a battle the organizations have been fighting for about five years.
In 2012, the plans for the turbine were first proposed and quickly faced opposition from conservationists, which eventually included a letter of intent to sue filed by the birding groups. The project was suspended in January 2014, revived again last year and now appears halted once again.
“We are relieved that after a five-year battle to convince them to do so, the (Air National Guard) made the decision to protect the integrity of this ‘Globally Important Bird Area’ by halting construction of the Camp Perry wind turbine project,” Kimberly Kaufman, executive director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory, said in a news release.
She said the organizations hope the decision sends a strong message to others that may be looking to develop wind energy in the area.
According to the observatory, other wind turbine projects have been popping up around the Great Lakes region, where coastlines are considered some of the most important habitats for migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere.
The American Bird Conservancy recently asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase its recommendation that no wind turbines be built within five miles of shorelines.
Both groups stated their readiness to take legal action again if the Camp Perry turbine project were to move forward in the future.
“Camp Perry is a cautionary tale about how location does matter,” said Michael Hutchins, of the American Bird Conservancy. “Rules must be followed, and similar projects should not threaten federally protected bird and bat species.”
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