Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from California
A member of California's fastest-flying bird species was found mortally injured at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert two weeks ago, ReWire has learned. Found on the site still alive, the bird was shipped to a rehabilitation facility by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) but subsequently died of its injuries.
The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APRWA) provides an excellent introduction to this problem. Its environmental impacts have been well publicized, but now the industry wants to replace small older 50- and 100-kilowatt turbines with huge 2.3-megawatt turbines that it claims are safer. This claim is without merit. Industry studies used to promote the plan are deeply flawed and the much larger 2.3 MW turbines will add more than twice the deadly rotor sweep to Altamont, along with much faster blade tip speeds.
Boulevard activist Donna Tisdale, who works with the Protect our Communities Foundation among other local groups, was blunt in her assessment of Bittner's legacy. In an interview with the local publication East County Magazine , which has been following the Bittner story closely, Tisdale blasted Bittner. "Now we know why Bittner was the go-to-guy for the industry. His services, and whatever ethics or integrity he might have once had, were literally 'for sale' to the highest bidder."
"Bittner repeatedly violated the law by capturing and banding birds without federal and state permits, placing unpermitted devices on birds, conducting aerial surveys after authorization was denied, using wild birds in educational programs without a permit, allowing an eagle carcass to be brought across state lines, failing to properly transfer migratory bird carcasses in a timely manner...
"We need a new model for the way public lands are managed that recognizes we can't keep trying to divide the pie up between exploitation and preservation." ...The move to increase solar permits "just shows the utter blindness that there is in the administration," said Blaeloch, of the Western Lands Project. "The 'all-of-the-above' approach-what kind of thing is that to say about what our energy policy is?" she said. "Let's be a little more discerning."
Over the 30 year life of the Project, 'Project activities are reasonably likely to result in the death of no more than one condor as a result of being struck by a turbine blade.' If a condor is struck by a turbine blade, according to the BLM, "the BLM will require Alta Windpower to cease day-time operations and implement additional measures to ensure that the project does not pose any further threat to condors."
The existence of the permit applications was revealed by FOIA requests by Oklahoma journalist Louise Red Corn, and shared Thursday in a web-based seminar held by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The 102.5-megawatt Shiloh IV Wind project applied for its take permit in March 2012, and the other three projects have applied in the last six months.
The California condor's slow 20-year climb back from the brink of extinction has long been a fragile not-quite-success story in the conservation world. So when the news came on Friday that developers of a wind-energy project near the Mojave Desert would not face criminal charges if the blades killed a single condor, environmental groups expressed grave concern. "This blindsided folks," Kelly Fuller of the American Bird Conservancy said in an interview.
In granting a right-of-way, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, with approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will shield Alta Windpower Development from prosecution if a condor is fatally injured at its 2,300-acre site near the high-desert town of Mojave during the projected 30-year lifetime of the project.
In response, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is calling on the Department of the Interior to reverse the decision, charging that allowing the legal killing of one of the most imperiled birds in the United States threatens endangered species conservation efforts across the country.
In a decision swiftly condemned by conservationists and wildlife advocates, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said operators of Terra-Gen Power's wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains will not be prosecuted if their turbines accidentally kill a condor during the expected 30-year life span of the project.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants exceptions to a wind farm and a building project in harassing or killing the endangered birds.
"The lack of data is particularly troubling because it is just this sort of data from permit holders that permits the U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service to monitor the health of the eagle populations within the United States, the release notes. Despite lacking a permit, Bittner continued to capture and band 144 migratory birds in the region, including at least one female Golden Eagle.
Dave Bittner, Golden Eagle expert with Wildlife Research Institute, pled guilty to federal charges of unlawful taking of Golden Eagles --working without valid permit and failure to file reports. Bittner conducted studies for Iberdrola's Tule Wind project approved by BLM and San Diego County for public and private land in the McCain Valley National Cooperative Land & Wildlife Management & Recreation Area. Tule Wind decisions by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for turbines on Ewiiaapaayp tribal lands, with a reported 6-8 Golden Eagle nests, and on State Lands Commission lands in Golden Eagle habitat are still pending. Can those agencies rely on Bitner's Golden Eagle work for Tule Wind that was apparently unpermitted and unlawful? What other breaches of law or professional ethics might be involved?
Center for Biological Diversity partnered with Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife to sue the Board of Supervisors in March 2012, claiming the impact report did not incorporate enough protections for endangered birds like the golden eagle and California condor. They also said the report did not consider a reasonable range of project alternatives, include enough mitigation measures, or adequately explain why the county rejected curtailment - shutting down turbines at certain times - as a way to reduce bird fatalities.
"The [Heron Bay Homeowners Association] board has to make formal vote on it, but I think we were committed before and we're committed now that we will be filing in Superior Court," said Alan Berger, the attorney for the homeowners association. "We absolutely do not feel the board of zoning and the city council followed all of the voluminous case law in California ...."
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the death of a golden eagle at a wind farm in Kern County, California, and is asking for local resident's help.
"Un-permitted take of eagles is the illegal take of eagles," Birchell said in the release. "We want power companies or any company involved in planning to build wind generation facilities in the Tehachapi range, where a significant golden eagle population exists, to contact the Service well in advance of construction and work with our biologists to develop conservation plans that will avoid take of eagles."
The US EPA submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared for the Shu'luuk Wind Project proposed for the Campo Indian Reservation in San Diego County, California. An excerpt of the comments is provided below including EPA's concerns about infrasound and the potential impact on human health. The full submission can be accessed by clicking the link on this page. This project was officially withdrawn from consideration.
Is the federal government turning a blind eye to violations of state laws intended to protect raptors (birds of prey) and other wildlife at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility? That's the contention of a lawsuit filed by the Desert Protective Council, an environmental group, and others against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Pattern Energy and others.
North Sky River's developer NextEra and government agencies pushed forward with the project despite high wildlife mortality and the nearby Pine Tree wind project. The aim was to get North Sky River producing power by December 31 so that it could qualify for the federal Wind Production Tax Credit.