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Outdoors: Conservationists oppose easing restrictions on wind turbine project

In a call-to-action to its membership, Black Swamp is sounding the alarm that removing the “feathering” clause from Icebreaker’s permit will essentially sign the death warrant for many thousands of birds. The grassroots group has urged its supporters to contact the OPSB and implore it to champion bird conservation and maintain the feathering requirement.

PORT CLINTON — With our lives disrupted by the seemingly endless parade of personal, employment, educational and business-related squalls and storms spawned by the pandemic, it is easy to get distracted and not give some of the most pressing issues of the day the attention they deserve. But under the cover of coronavirus, the wheels of government keep turning, and a prominent local conservation group has expressed concern over what level of arm-twisting might be going on behind the COVID curtain.

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory, along with the American Bird Conservancy, a national non-profit charged with protecting native birds and their habitat, are as eco-friendly and as-green-as-it-gets when it comes to environmental issues. But they will drop the banner and fall out of line when they see green energy projects that go too far and significantly threaten the very wildlife these organizations pledge to protect.

In the past, Black Swamp and ABC have mounted a very heavily science-based opposition to the proposed placement of wind turbines right in the path of the millions of migratory birds, water birds, and raptors that... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

PORT CLINTON — With our lives disrupted by the seemingly endless parade of personal, employment, educational and business-related squalls and storms spawned by the pandemic, it is easy to get distracted and not give some of the most pressing issues of the day the attention they deserve. But under the cover of coronavirus, the wheels of government keep turning, and a prominent local conservation group has expressed concern over what level of arm-twisting might be going on behind the COVID curtain.

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory, along with the American Bird Conservancy, a national non-profit charged with protecting native birds and their habitat, are as eco-friendly and as-green-as-it-gets when it comes to environmental issues. But they will drop the banner and fall out of line when they see green energy projects that go too far and significantly threaten the very wildlife these organizations pledge to protect.

In the past, Black Swamp and ABC have mounted a very heavily science-based opposition to the proposed placement of wind turbines right in the path of the millions of migratory birds, water birds, and raptors that use the Lake Erie shoreline corridor as a major flyway, or as a feeding, resting, and nesting area.

A few years ago, the two groups were successful in getting an ill-conceived wind turbine project at Camp Perry, just west of here, shelved. Citing the placement of wind turbines hundreds of feet tall on the shores of Lake Erie as posing an “exceptionally high risk to federally protected wildlife”, the groups presented a very practical and well-documented resistance to constructing these would be bird-choppers in an area known for its spring warbler migration and its resident bald eagle population.

Black Swamp and ABC, again armed with the best science and the voices of irrefutable experts, but apparently too thin on lobbyists maneuvering through the hallways in Columbus, opposed a project called Icebreaker Wind which called for the construction of six huge nearly 500-foot tall wind turbines out in the lake, off Cleveland.

These demonstration turbines, which could be joined by hundreds more wind power towers if the project runs its course, will sit eight to 10 miles offshore and be connected to transmission stations by a 12-mile long submerged cable.

In late May, as the pandemic swept the headlines and sucked the air out of most political discussions, the Ohio Power Siting Board, an 11-member commission that must approve such projects, gave the green light to Icebreaker but attached a rather important proviso. The state’s order requires Icebreaker Wind to stop its turbines during the nighttime hours from March 1 through Nov. 1 to limit the impact on migrating birds and bats.

In an unintended stroke of awkward irony, this bird-strike mitigation method is called “feathering.” Icebreaker and its sponsor Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) immediately cried foul. LEEDCo, fat with more than $40 million in federal grant money to feed the project, wants that big asterisk plucked from its permit.

Labeling the feathering requirement “a poison pill,” the wind project and its lobbyists have been cranking up the pressure in Columbus, pushing to get this condition tossed aside.

In a call-to-action to its membership, Black Swamp is sounding the alarm that removing the “feathering” clause from Icebreaker’s permit will essentially sign the death warrant for many thousands of birds. The grassroots group has urged its supporters to contact the OPSB and implore it to champion bird conservation and maintain the feathering requirement.

“While we support wind energy that minimizes its impacts to birds, the proposed location for Icebreaker's six massive turbines is in the Central Basin of Lake Erie, a National Audubon Society-designated Globally Important Bird Area,” Black Swamp’s leadership said in a recent mass email. “Project supporters have consistently tried to use bad science to rationalize this poor decision, putting millions of birds at risk.”

The Icebreaker side has been using its resoundingly befuddling endorsement from the Sierra Club and the Ohio Environmental Council as a badge of honor, but Black Swamp contends that support is misguided.

“We are regional bird conservation experts,” BSBO said. “Though some environmental groups may vocally support the Icebreaker project, they lack our depth of knowledge and experience with Lake Erie’s birds to speak with any credibility on this topic. We need to ensure that the OPSB hears loud and clear that the bird conservation community is watching and understand that strong protections are needed for this precedent-setting project.”

That should serve as the mic drop moment in this debate. If not, consider that the American Bird Conservancy has labeled the “extraordinary growth of wind energy” — much of it heavily subsidized with tax dollars — as a “growing threat to birds.”

The group cites the more than 50,000 wind turbines currently in operation across the U.S. and states that those turbines killed close to 600,000 birds annually, from eagles to migratory songbirds, according to a study done eight years ago. ABC fears nearly 10 times as many wind turbines will stand in the path of birds by the end of the decade, resulting in millions more dead birds.

Black Swamp’s position is bolstered by the endorsement of Kenn Kaufman, an internationally recognized author of bird field guides and a resident of the Lake Erie shoreline corridor, and Mark Shieldcastle, who has more than three decades of experience along the lake as an avian biologist, including serving as the project leader for wetland wildlife research and bald eagle recovery programs for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Shieldcastle said the wind industry-supported research used to justify placing mammoth wind turbines along Lake Erie are “extremely poor studies . . . and the conclusions they reach are not based on sound science.” He stresses this is not a debate on the merits of green energy.

“This is not really about wind power — it’s about putting it in the right place,” said Shieldcastle, who currently serves as the research director at BSBO. He added that placing wind turbines in the middle of major migratory routes or in critical bird habitat “is taking something that should be environmentally friendly and turning it into something harmful.”


Source: toledoblade.com/sports/outd...

AUG 19 2020
http://www.windaction.org/posts/51589-outdoors-conservationists-oppose-easing-restrictions-on-wind-turbine-project
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