A wind farm company proposing a project in Northwest Missouri has raised the concern of the Missouri Department of Conservation over potential bird and bat deaths.
NextEra Energy, based in Florida, is planning to build 97 wind turbines on the border of Clinton and DeKalb counties as part of the Osborn Wind Farm. Of the 97 turbines planned, there are 21 expected to be placed within a one-mile radius of the Pony Express Lake and along the boundary of the conservation area itself.
The wind turbines will be around 500 feet tall with a blade length of between 160 and 174 feet.
The Missouri Department of Conservation found a dead bald eagle last year at the Lost Creek Wind Farm in DeKalb County. The conservation department sent the bird to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to be placed in a bird repository.
The director of the conservation department, Robert Ziehmer, sent a letter to NextEra in April asking for a greater setback distance of the turbines to the conservation area for the proposed project and advised the company to conduct additional bird and bat studies.
Ziehmer noted that the 3,290-acre conservation area was acquired and managed with both federal and state funding. He said the department has extensively managed the conservation area to become a premiere dove hunting location.
“The department is concerned that the placement and operation of wind turbines at this location may result in direct and indirect mortality to wildlife and decreased use of PELCA by wildlife, thereby reducing hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities for resource users,” the letter states.
The department said it is concerned about impacts to species such as eagles, trumpeter swans and endangered birds like the Northern Harrier, as well as the endangered Indiana bat.
“Locating one-fifth of the project’s turbines within one mile of the PELCA boundary, an area established purposefully for wildlife and Missourians, seems disproportionate and extreme,” the letter states.
The conservation department said that NextEra has not responded to the letter.
Bryan Garner, spokesman for NextEra, said the company does not plan to move the turbines farther from the conservation area.
“Protecting wildlife and sensitive habitats is a priority for our company, and we’ve worked over the last five years with the Missouri Department of Conservation to avoid or minimize any impact that the Osborn Wind Project would have on the environment,” Garner said.
The wind company has not opted to purchase permits through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to allow for eagle deaths that are otherwise protected through the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Garner said the company’s discussions with federal wildlife regulatory authorities indicate that it does not need an endangered species permit.
“Based on the extensive studies and surveys we’ve done and will continue to do, this setback should help us address or avoid any potential impact to the environment in that area,” Garner said. He called the current setback requirements “more than sufficient” to protect wildlife.
Sherri Banks, a local landowner that is part of the group Concerned Citizens for the Future of DeKalb County, Missouri, said she is against the wind farm because of its impacts to Pony Express Lake.
“I feel the way these industrial wind turbines are being built is not going to work long term,” Banks said. “It is likely to be realized 10 years down the road, but we don’t know what damage will be done by then. They talk about climate change being a concern, but this isn’t doing anything to resolve it.”
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