In response to Chronicle reporter Justyna Tomtas’s article, “In updated plan, all 38 wind turbines to be built in Lewis County,” I’d like to offer some clarity on RES-Americas’ recent decision to reduce the scope of the project.
The article states that “the turbines potential to ‘take’ – either kill or threaten birds – was also raised (to RES-Americas)” and that “questions on the effects the turbines would have on the marbled murrelet were also raised, leading to the change in plans.”
As a member of the Conservation Committee of the Black Hills Audubon Society, which represents members in Lewis, Thurston, and Mason counties, the change in plans does not address the concerns we expressed to RES-Americas about the marbled murrelet (a state-endangered seabird that nests far inland.)
Our concerns – and those of Willapa Hills and Rainier Audubon representatives – were shared at a Nov. 16 meeting with RES-Americas and addressed the impact of the turbines planned for the southern ridge, not the northern ridge, the one that was eliminated from the project on Dec. 1.
Specifically, we are concerned about the turbines at the eastern end of the southern line of turbines. These are adjacent to occupied murrelet nesting habitat on private and federal lands. RES-Americas’ own radar surveys of marbled murrelets in the project area estimate a take of two to three murrelets per year for the next 30 years. This rate of collisions could completely eliminate the use of this important nest site in an area where few other nest sites exist for murrelets.
RES-Americas stated their unwillingness to eliminate these particular turbines because these turbines produce proportionally more energy than others (being in the area of strongest winds.) Our concerns remain and, therefore, should not be seen as “leading to the change in plans” by RES-Americas.
Black Hills Audubon supports the development of wind-energy projects in Washington provided the impact on the marbled murrelet is adequately minimized and “take” is fully mitigated.
Black Hills Audubon Society
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