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Wind farm researches ways to cut bat deaths

The whirling turbine blades at a wind farm planned in Champaign County would almost certainly kill endangered Indiana bats. The developer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources all agree on that. They'll spend the next several months figuring out how to reduce the number of bats killed and working out just how many deaths are acceptable.

The whirling turbine blades at a wind farm planned in Champaign County would almost certainly kill endangered Indiana bats.

The developer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources all agree on that. They'll spend the next several months figuring out how to reduce the number of bats killed and working out just how many deaths are acceptable.

No one is sure what that number should be because Fish and Wildlife has never issued a permit to a wind farm that allows harm to Indiana bats, said Megan Seymour, wildlife biologist in the service's Reynoldsburg office.

"We are right on the leading edge of this," she said.

Story continues belowAdvertisement EverPower Wind Holdings wants to build 70 wind turbines in an 80,000-acre area in Champaign County just east of Urbana and about 40 miles west of Columbus. Each turbine would be about 490 feet tall. In all, the turbines are expected to provide enough electricity to power about 42,000 homes. EverPower hopes to start construction late this year.

Before that can happen, however, the company has to account for the bats.

Surveys... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The whirling turbine blades at a wind farm planned in Champaign County would almost certainly kill endangered Indiana bats.

The developer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources all agree on that. They'll spend the next several months figuring out how to reduce the number of bats killed and working out just how many deaths are acceptable.

No one is sure what that number should be because Fish and Wildlife has never issued a permit to a wind farm that allows harm to Indiana bats, said Megan Seymour, wildlife biologist in the service's Reynoldsburg office.

"We are right on the leading edge of this," she said.

Story continues belowAdvertisement EverPower Wind Holdings wants to build 70 wind turbines in an 80,000-acre area in Champaign County just east of Urbana and about 40 miles west of Columbus. Each turbine would be about 490 feet tall. In all, the turbines are expected to provide enough electricity to power about 42,000 homes. EverPower hopes to start construction late this year.

Before that can happen, however, the company has to account for the bats.

Surveys by EverPower and others over the past several years found female Indiana bats, Seymour said. That means that a colony of the 3-inch flying mammals nests there. It's likely, she said, that 50 to 100 female bats return to the area each spring.

Because the Indiana bat is a federally listed endangered species, any project that could harm it must go through two closely linked processes.

First, EverPower must put together what's called a habitat compensation plan that explains how it intends to avoid harming the bats or destroying their habitat. That could include turning off the turbines at certain times of the night during the summer, placing turbines away from woods where the bats are likely to nest and making sure that construction doesn't disturb those woods, said Michael Speerschneider, director of development for EverPower.

After that, Fish and Wildlife will evaluate the plan and determine whether to issue an "incidental taking" permit, which would allow harming a certain number of bats each year. That number depends on how many Indiana bats biologists think could be affected without jeopardizing the survival of the species in that area, Seymour said.

" Taking includes killing, harm, harassment or alteration of habitat that impairs breeding, feeding or resting," she said. "It's not always mortality."

Steps to avoid Indiana bat habitat have altered road projects, including the I-670 interchange with Rt. 315 in Columbus, held up logging in the Wayne National Forest in southeastern Ohio and changed plans for building a high school in Ashtabula County.

Going through this process is important for wind-power companies because, once construction ends, danger to the bats doesn't. Last year, a dead Indiana bat was found beneath a wind turbine in Indiana, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported in February.

A judge told another wind company to halt its project in West Virginia because Indiana bats were found in the vicinity and the company had not sought a permit from Fish and Wildlife.

That hasn't been a problem in Ohio, Seymour said, because the Ohio Power Siting Board is careful to tell companies upfront that they must work with state and federal wildlife officials on endangered species issues.

EverPower has done that, Seymour said.

"We've been having conference calls and meetings for years now," she said. "They've been very helpful."

Similar issues are likely to crop up as wind-power companies look to place turbines along the shores of Lake Erie, or in the lake, in areas where thousands of migratory birds fly. Surveys showed that the Champaign County project wouldn't significantly affect migratory birds, Seymour said.


Source: http://www.dispatch.com/liv...

MAR 22 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/25286-wind-farm-researches-ways-to-cut-bat-deaths
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