SOMERSET — The American Bird Conservancy has released a list of 10 of the worst-sited existing and proposed commercial wind energy projects from the perspective of bird conservation.
And the proposed Lighthouse Wind project is included.
The nationwide survey by the ABC listed the vast numbers of migratory songbirds and raptors which rely on this area, as well as the proximity to the breeding habitat for declining grassland birds for why the Lighthouse Wind project is on the list.
“(United States Fish and Wildlife Service) has expressed serious concern about this project, warning the developer that this is an area of extremely high avian use,” ABC said regarding the proposed project.
In a response to ABC, Lighthouse Wind said it is conducting numerous environmental studies in coordination with United States Fish and Wildlife Service and New York state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“The purpose of the studies is to evaluate risk to sensitive bird and bat resources and ensure the project is designed and operated in as safe a manner as possible for all types of wildlife,” said Dave Phillips, director of Wildlife and Environmental Permitting for Apex Clean Energy. “According to the Audubon Society’s website, ‘Audubon strongly supports properly-sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threat posed to birds and people by climate change.’
“Apex’s wildlife research activities at Lighthouse, and technical input from the resource agencies, will help us ensure that our project is sited and operated responsibly,” he continued. “It is a common misconception presented by ABC and others that the mere presence of birds equates to risk.”
He said Apex agrees that the south shore of Lake Ontario is an important migration area — particularly during spring — for a variety of species. That knowledge requires detailed, site-specific studies to assess risk and influence project design and protocols, to ensure low levels wildlife impact.
“Lighthouse Wind will rely on the facts resulting from careful study, as well as input from agencies and stakeholders, rather than prejudicial comments unsupported by fact, such as those presented by ABC,” he continued. “We look forward to obtaining data from these scientific, agency approved studies, incorporating their technical input from the resource experts into project planning, and having all stakeholders base decisions on that.”
Pamela Atwater, president of Save Ontario Shores, wrote to the New York state Public Service Commission, submitting ABC’s list for the record, adding the bird conservancy was not the only environmental group or agency expressing concerns about the siting of the project.
SOS pointed out The U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted radar studies on raptors in the area, stating The risk to wildlife from operating wind turbines could rise to severe levels.
The Nature Conservancy has been involved in a multiyear Stopover Study, which showed significant numbers of migratory birds in this area; along with opposition from Federation of Monroe County Environmentalists, Genesee Valley Audubon Society, Hawk Migration Association of North America and Rochester Birding Association.
“These groups represent a large number of people who believe this proposed wind project should not be allowed in this region,” Atwater wrote. “‘However,’ as ABC concluded in their publication, ‘the developer appears to be going ahead with its plans, conducting its own studies, disputing previous work done by other researchers, and ignoring the concerns of local residents.’”
“It is not ABC’s intention to criticize wind development in general or the developers of the specific projects indicated below,” ABC concluded in its press release. “Rather, this list is intended to demonstrate that under the present voluntary federal guidelines, there is an inadequate system of checks and balances to protect America’s ecologically important migratory and resident birds from poorly-sited wind energy development.
“ABC believes that a mandatory permitting system is the best means to create a level playing field for all wind operators. Those trying to do the right thing should not be placed at a competitive disadvantage if they incur costs (or have reduced income) when implementing proper siting and bird mitigation.”