CLEVELAND, Ohio – Two bird conservation groups sued the Energy Department and Army Corps of Engineers in an attempt to stop the development of a Lake Erie wind turbine farm about eight miles off the coast of Cleveland named “Icebreaker.”
The American Bird Conservancy of Washington, D.C. and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio said in a lawsuit that the evaluations of the project by both agencies flies in the face of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act.
The agencies failed to properly analyze the environmental impacts of the farm, as well as alternatives, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Washington, D.C. The groups say the project would endanger large numbers of birds that fly through the area each year.
Icebreaker envisions six wind turbines in Lake Erie, and construction could begin as soon as 2021. When it was launched, the project was budgeted to cost $126 million and provide 20.7 megawatts of electricity. It would be the first freshwater renewable energy project in the U.S.
The project is being pursued by Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, or LEEDCo, a private-public partnership.
The conservation groups say in a news release that the chosen site for the wind farm is part of an “Global Important Bird Area,” designated as such by the National Audubon Society, and sees millions of birds each year. It says the turbine would pose risks to large groups of migrating songbirds, as well as Common Loons, red-breasted Mergansers and other waterfowl.
“Yet, rather than conduct the robust examination that federal law required for this groundbreaking project that will fundamentally transform this freshwater ecosystem and pave the way to a substantial expansion of wind turbines in the Great Lakes, DOE has instead willfully ignored inconvenient data and shirked its obligations …,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit asks a judge to order the Energy Department and Army Corps to complete proper evaluations of the project and to withhold approval and money until they comply with federal law.
Representatives of the Energy Department and the Army Corps did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
LEEDCo President David Karpinski said in an email Thursday that its studies showed that few birds use the project site area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the project poses “limited direct risk” to migrant birds. The service dropped a recommendation that an environmental impact statement be drafted, Karpinksi said.
He said the Energy Department and Army Corps adequately and fully carried out their obligations under federal law.
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