Impact on Wildlife and Washington
Wednesday's letter was signed by Seattle Audubon, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Conservation Northwest, the American Bird Conservancy and the Gifford Pinchot Task Force. It said the Fish and Wildlife Service made "multiple factual errors" in its earlier finding.
Among them: The agency implied that the owl documented in 2010 in the vicinity of the project was detected only three times.
A recent study in Klickitat County, Washington indicates 6,500 birds and 3,000 bats are killed annually in the two states-though the number of deaths in the two states may be much higher. ...an untold number of birds are devoured by vultures or coyotes before they're included in the count.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted two Radar Ridge Wind Project "scoping" meetings last week in Lacey and Naselle, reviewing both the promise and objections to the alternative energy development.
Backers of putting Western Washington's first big wind farm on a ridge near Naselle are trying to keep the project from falling apart after the development's largest investor declined this week to sink more money into the environmentally contentious proposal. ...The utilities say they've shown that the chances of a marbled murrelet being hit by wind blade in any given year would be less than fifty-fifty.
Environmental groups dispute that conclusion, and the wildlife service has demanded more environmental studies.
Public utilities planning Western Washington's first large wind farm declared Tuesday that the towers would kill less than one threatened marbled murrelet a year over the long run. The claim was greeted with skepticism by state and federal agencies that must OK the project. ..."We don't want to have a wind farm that starts hitting home runs with marbled murrelets and has to be shut down or torn down, or drives the marbled murrelet to extinction."
A proposal to build the first wind farm in Western Washington may stall, and may even be doomed, because of concern that turbine blades would kill members of an endangered bird species, a state lawmaker says.
"I'm just not feeling real confident that this is going to grab hold and move forward very fast," Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview, said last week. "There are key players who aren't very supportive, and I think it's going to hold this up. Is it going to kill it? I don't know."
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is no longer considering leasing 2,560 acres of state trust land to SDS Lumber Co. for possible future expansion of the proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project in Skamania County.
A notice released by the DNR's Ellensburg office on Aug. 10 says the agency "is no longer considering a lease" but could reconsider the option at some future date.
"The reason it was withdrawn was because of issues with endangered species," DNR spokesman Aaron Toso said Friday.
Jason Lowe, a biologist with the Bureau of Land Management's Eastern Washington office in Spokane, ...conducted two field surveys this spring and summer, which confirmed what he feared: The hawks are fewer and farther between.
Where there were 17 nesting pairs in 1987 in the Juniper Dunes area of Franklin County, only four were spotted last year and just one this year. ...Wind farms are proliferating in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon, which is a concern, he said.
"Information is not complete, but there have been reports of hawks being hit by the (rotating windmill) blades," he said.
While ferruginous hawks are unlikely to nest on ridges where windmills are located, they typically forage for food over a 17-mile radius, and that can include wind farms.
Green power, green jobs, renewable energy collide with the Endangered Species Act in a proposed wind farm in Southwest Washington. The project calling for between 48-60 megawatts of power is proposed for 3,359 acres of Washington Department of Natural Resources land northwest of Naselle, Washington. ...The DNR has the power to stop the project if it deems the project endangers Murrelets.
Today DNR has 24 active wind power leases in various stages. Five wind farms with 65 turbines operate on state trust land, all in Eastern Washington. The leases yield $670,000 a year.
However, the DNR failed to consider whether allowing wind turbines on state land might conflict with the compact the state made with the federal government in 1997 when it promised to manage its land in a way that would minimize harm to threatened and endangered species.
And Sutherland didn't foresee that some uses might not be compatible with the giant spinning turbine blades that feed renewable energy into the power grid.
A proposal by an Eastern Washington utility consortium to build the state's first coastal wind farm by 2011 has run smack up against the habitat requirements of a threatened seabird.
Energy Northwest, based in the Tri-Cities, has signed a lease with the Washington Department of Natural Resources to build a wind farm on 3,359 acres of state trust land near Naselle, in Pacific County.
A proposed wind farm on a forested ridge in eastern Skamania County could harm bats, raptors and other wildlife, a state wildlife biologist says. ...
Ritter, a wind mitigation biologist based in Pasco, said the survey data on bats was "extremely interesting and alarming."
A state wildlife biologist says the Whistling Ridge Wind Project, proposed for a timbered ridge in eastern Skamania County, could cause high wildlife mortality, especially for bats and raptors.
Surveys of the 1,152-acre site, including those done for the applicant, Bingen-based SDS Lumber Co., show the area is heavily used by bats, raptors and other birds, biologist Michael Ritter said in formal comments to the state agency that will decide whether to approve the project.
A potential wind farm envisioned straddling a ridgeline near Larch Mountain in east Clark County has been put on hold.
The state Department of Natural Resources, anticipating a boom in wind energy development spilling across the west side of the Cascades, wants more information before it considers leasing western state forests to wind farmers.
A golden eagle died last month when it collided with a wind turbine blade at a 47-turbine wind farm in Klickitat County.
The April 27 collision at the Goodnoe Hills Wind Project southeast of Goldendale was the first known eagle casualty caused by a Washington wind project.
"I don't know of any other eagle fatalities in the state in connection with colliding with a turbine blade," said Travis Nelson, the state's lead wildlife biologist on wind power issues. He called the incident "unfortunate."
Then came onto the Whisky Dick came the 9,100-acre Wild Horse facility, owned by Puget Sound Energy, 127 wind turbines ...Some feared they might end the area's sage grouse future.
And now that a grouse and a nest have been found there?
"I think it's still too early to know," said Mike Schroeder, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife upland bird research biologist considered the state's foremost expert on sage grouse.
"One, it's just one nest. I've had sage grouse nest in wheat fields where there was absolutely zero chance of success. You have birds that do strange things. ..."There are issues -- the blades killing birds, the blades killing bats," said Andy Stepniewski, author of "The Birds of Yakima County" and program chair of the Yakima Valley Audubon. "The bigger issue is the footprint, the habitat fragmentation. The footprint of each one is a lot bigger than one can imagine, because of the size of the machine, the size of the road; these are enormous trucks that bring these huge turbines in there.
"The habitat is significantly impacted.
The wide open spaces and natural terrain and wildlife of Southeastern Washington are fading, and some residents would like the encroaching effects of urbanization toned down, such as a proposed project that would place 35 to 50 turbines on Rattlesnake Mountain.
More than 30 people showed up Saturday at the Richland Community Center for a meeting to oppose a proposed windmill farm at the base of the mountain. ...Rick Leaumont, chairman of the Audubon Society's conservation committee, agreed that urgency in protesting the project is necessary because about 238 bird species have been documented in the area, and would be effected by the windmills.
"Wildlife needs some kind of solitude, a place that is theirs," Leaumont said. "Any location on the mountain would be a problem."
Debate over putting wind turbines on Rattlesnake Mountain appears to be maturing faster than plans for the project itself. ...Guettner said Rattlesnake Mountain may be an ideal spot for wind turbines, but not one the public is likely to accept. "I feel like there's a supermajority of people who feel the way I do," he said. "I think it's time we marshal these people." ...Rick Leaumont, Audubon's conservation committee chairman, said about 238 bird species have been documented in the area. He said they are regularly coming and going to and from the monument, often crossing the mountain.
"Any location on the mountain would be a problem," he said. "It's like an airport."
By December 2007, more than 1,500 turbines will be churning out electricity in the Columbia River Gorge. Scientists are also concerned that since the turbines are nearing along the ridge of the gorge, canyons and shrub-covered rangeland, the natural habitats of the birds could be at risk. ...Wildlife biologists in Oregon and Washington state say the turbines are taking toll on raptors and other birds and it may limit expansion of clean wind energy.
SDS Lumber Co. plans to apply for a permit before year's end to build a wind farm in Skamania County that would produce up to 70 megawatts of power.
The project would be on a north-south ridge at elevations of 2,000 to 2,200 feet between Underwood Mountain and Whistling Ridge. The remote property lies east of the old mill town of Willard and about a mile north of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area boundary. ...Dennis White, an environmental activist who lives in the Klickitat County community of Husum, said a regional discussion needs to take place about the cumulative effects of wind generation facilities in the Columbia Gorge.
"Wherever there's a BPA line, we're going to have these wind farms just outside the scenic area, up and down the gorge," White said.