Impact on Wildlife and Massachusetts
The whales have also caught the attention of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is overseeing wind farm lease areas off the Vineyard and Rhode Island, and has commissioned the New England Aquarium to do an aerial survey, according to Tim Cole, a research fisheries biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Environmental advocates and wind energy companies in New England said Thursday they are working on an agreement to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale during offshore development in New England - the same day that 15 of the rare mammals were spotted near Wellfleet.
Bird deaths by the town's wind turbines are causing concern among local birders even though some favor alternative energy.
Photos of dead birds were taken by Windwise, which opposes the turbines, and e-mailed to the Advocate. On Tuesday, Windwise member Ken Pottel said someone from the state environmental police is looking into it.
With fewer than 500 known individuals, North Atlantic right whales are the most endangered of the great whales in the North Atlantic. The death of even one whale from human causes sets back the recovery of the species, especially if the lost whale is a female.
A study by Jason Horner in the Journal of Wildlife Management revealed that rather than flying through the turbines the bats hung around to forage. The study in Alberta revealed that 90 percent of the dead bats at the base of the turbines had severe lung damage with no external injuries. ...
Bats in the Northeast have an even bigger problem - the fungal disease known as white nose syndrome.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's approval of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm this week prompted a wave of legal threats from opponents who argue the decision violates the Endangered Species Act and other laws.
One possible suit even contends the project could hurt endangered right whales. That suit, however, is only one of several possible challenges to the plan by Cape Wind Associates to build 130 wind turbines in the Sound.
There was elation and dejection on the Cape yesterday over Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar's approval of the Cape Wind project. But there was also some consensus - a rare thing for this controversial proposal - that the road to federal approval was long and hard.
That was especially true among people who have been part of the debate from the beginning.
Lawsuits will be filed on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups - including the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Three Bays Preservation, Animal Welfare Institute, Industrial Wind Action Group, Californians for Renewable Energy, Oceans Public Trust Initiative (a project of the International Marine Mammal Project of the Earth Land Institute), Lower Laguna Madre Foundation - against the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and Minerals Management Service for violations of the Endangered Species Act. ..."It is a shame that the Obama Administration chose political expediency over developing a project in an environmentally responsible place that can actually be built," said Parker.
A group of environmental organizations and opponents of wind energy projects say they likely will file suit if the federal government approves the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm.
A 60-day notice of violations of the Endangered Species Act was sent this week to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin and to the U.S. Interior Department and other federal agencies that have reviewed Cape Wind's plan to build 130 wind turbines in the sound.
Cape Wind critics threw up an eleventh-hour roadblock this week, accusing two U.S. government agencies that approved portions of the proposed offshore wind energy project of violating federal laws.
"We put them on notice," said Lisa Linowes, executive director of the Industrial Wind Action Group, which tracks the benefits of wind energy projects.
Her group and eight others filed a 60-day notice of violations with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
With less than one month before Massachusetts environmental officials are expected to sign off on the draft Ocean Management Plan, Vineyard critics were buoyed recently by a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to the state. FWS said the plan lacks an analysis of alternative wind energy areas in federal waters and does not fully address the risks to protected migratory bird species.
Dozens of wind turbines could sprout within sight of the Massachusetts shoreline under a first-of-its-kind state blueprint with the promise of generating both electricity and controversy.
The draft plan, scheduled to be released today, would allow a series of small wind farms of up to 10 turbines each in coastal waters that stretch 3 miles from shore.
The major ecological concern when five wind turbines were built here several years ago was whether they would kill migrating birds.
They have, including two ospreys and a peregrine falcon. But as it turns out, it isn't the death of birds that is drawing the most attention. The real casualty is bats.
The New Jersey Audubon Society is halfway through a three-year study on the impact of the turbines, and so far twice as many bats as birds have died.
The state plans to protect over 700 acres of ridge line in the Hoosac Mountain range from any future development, including wind turbines, as the Berkshire Natural Resources Council continues to create a corridor of land connecting the Florida and Savoy Mountain state forests.
Part of the plan calls for a major hiking trail for North Berkshire.
Unlike other forms of green power such as solar panels or landfill methane gas, it's hard to hide a wind turbine, particularly in a state as small and densely populated as Massachusetts. ...That's creating a dilemma for conservationists and environmentalists who support renewable energy, but also want to preserve the state's wildlife population and scenic vistas.
The Minerals Management Service's 800 page Final Environmental Impact Statement on Cape Wind was released on Friday and in a largely favorable review found nearly all impacts to be negligible or minor.
The few exceptions, where the 130 turbine wind farm would potentially or certainly have moderate to major impact were on birds, especially marine birds such as terns or sea ducks, on navigation and safety of recreational or commercial fishing boats, although those effects could be mitigated, and on visual resources of Nantucket Sound.
Massachusetts and Vermont wildlife officials are asking the public to help identify bats affected by a mysterious illness known as white nose syndrome.
This time of year, bats are normally hibernating in caves and in abandoned mines across the Northeast. But researchers are getting reports of bats weakly flying around in broad daylight or dying on decks and in backyards.
The fate of what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm is calling attention to the political obstacles facing renewable power, despite President-elect Barack Obama's determination to greatly expand its use.
The project, called Cape Wind, is a Boston firm's plan to build 130 windmills across 25 square miles of federal waters off Cape Cod. ...A spokesman for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound says the group sees "lots of room to protest" the government review.
By the time federal regulators stopped accepting public comments about the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm on Monday, two of the letters had already raised some eyebrows among the project's critics. That's because the two letters were signed by the same person, state Division of Marine Fisheries director Paul Diodati, but they struck noticeably different tones. ...Diodati's first letter [dated Feb. 20] spells out the loss of access that fishermen could face as well as concerns about rescue crews reaching a troubled boat in the area.
But the second letter, dated March 7, tones down the rhetoric considerably, reducing the section that lists the potential impacts to fisheries to just a few sentences. The section also mentions a couple of possible benefits, such as certain species becoming attracted to the newly built tower foundations.
But the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound cites more than a few environmental impacts in the DEIS that it believes the Minerals Management Service and the rest of the agencies reviewing the massive project need to pay closer attention to. Impacts on birds, scenic views, navigation, fish species, fishing and boating all received a moderate rating from the MMS. The Alliance also calls into question what it terms the excessive cost of Cape Wind's wind energy and air travel hazards over Nantucket Sound in proximity to the wind farm.
Alliance President and CEO Glenn Wattley said the Alliance is working now to examine each impact that was given a moderate characterization by the MMS and figure out ways to address them.
"We've been retaining experts," he said. "We have 40 experts on these topics, they are going over the topics [and] we're spending quite a bit of money putting together a professional response for the public comment period," he said.