Library filed under Impact on Birds from Florida
The rule shields producers enrolled in the plan and operating in compliance with it from punishment for the accidental death or disturbance of the bird the EPA has targeted for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The company planning to build a wind farm with towering turbines on Palm Beach County farmland have dropped their plans. Environmentalists had argued the turbines posed a risk to endangered birds.
The Sugarland Wind Project would have posed an unreasonable risk to the birds. Audubon Florida scientists evaluated the project's risk and came to the conclusion that the danger to birds was really grave. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service also had serious questions and concerns about the project, especially in regards to impacts to federally listed endangered species such as the Everglade Snail Kite and Wood Stork. There were species of birds with very low population numbers documented in the area, where even one death could potentially lead to considerable harm on the species' long term survival.
Environmental groups have objected to the proposed location of the turbines, saying they pose too much of a risk to birds migrating through the Everglades. That includes endangered wood storks and Everglades snail kites. Despite concerns about the risk to birds, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection this month approved a state environmental permit needed for the project.
Although the Sugarland Wind Project has won approval from the County Commission, it still faces a number of obstacles. The company needs state and federal environmental permits to proceed. There's also the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And it's a given that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take a closer look at the impact on wildlife.
"This is difficult for us to oppose because ... we all love the idea of wind farming," said Steve Horowitz, president of the Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches across western Palm Beach County. "The problem here is the location."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a July 1 letter to the company called for a more thorough analysis of potential wildlife threats from the wind farm. The federal regulators said that bird "collisions with turbine blades are often fatal, and usually resulting in the animal being effectively eliminated from the breeding population."
The agency said there was potential harm to the Everglade snail kite, bald eagle, wood stork, northern crested caracara and the many species that inhabit the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Also at risk were bats, which play a role in controlling insects that would otherwise infest the farm fields.
FPL has looked for good Florida sites for wind power since 2005, Ms. Bennett said, and Hutchinson Island "looks like it's worth pursuing." FPL "wants to coexist as good environmental stewards," and will work with all agencies to avoid impact on birds and wildlife. That's good to know, because the information available about wind energy and wildlife indicates that some impact - literally - is inevitable.