Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Kansas
When an energy company proposes building gigantic turbines within eight miles of the refuge’s idyllic site, members become concerned. That’s the situation with the $400 million, 300-megawatt Diamond Vista Wind Farm, under construction in Dickinson and Marion counties.
Among the regulars are pelicans, wood ducks, trumpeter swans, blue-winged teals, sandhill cranes, blue herons, snow geese and smaller shorebirds such as the killdeer. After a layover, they ride the updraft from wind hitting the nearby Loess Hills, formed thousands of years ago from wind-blown soil. Now a company wants to capture that same wind by building Missouri’s largest wind farm nearby.
Threats to the bird include wind farms, oil and gas production, herbicides, drought and livestock grazing. Kansas Electric Cooperatives and the Kansas Farm Bureau back the bill. Designating the bird as endangered or threatened could stymie the state’s wind industry by limiting placement of wind turbines. It also could double the cost of building power transmission lines.
The Kansas Wildlife Federation, Schroeder said, generally is supportive of wind energy. "But we're very concerned about bad siting," he added. Already, a couple projects have been located in areas where it affected lesser prairie chickens.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at the request of wind-power developers, plan to prepare an environmental impact statement that would cover much of Kansas. The area includes the corridor used by migrating whooping cranes and the troubled lesser prairie chicken range.
That's because general plans for the 345-kilovolt route, known as the V-Plan and including a connecting line into Oklahoma, appear to take the line through prime nesting and breeding habitat for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken in both states. With an estimated two-thirds of the unique bird's original habitat already eliminated by development, officials warn that further encroachment could place the bird on the nation's endangered species list.
Local governments are beginning to flex their permitting authority to challenge commercial-scale wind farms, a trend some industry observers say could impede broader federal efforts to expand renewable energy production. The latest round in the emerging battle between local governments and wind-energy developers occurred last week in Kansas, where the state Supreme Court upheld a Wabaunsee County zoning ordinance banning industrial-scale wind ...Experts say the Wabaunsee ordinance, unanimously upheld by the Kansas court, is a key test of local governments' power to effectively ban large-scale wind farms, as opposed to blocking a specific project or proposal.
The Star's recent editorial celebrating the prairie was a treat. But it overlooked the biggest threat to our prairies now: commercial wind farms. Few people realize that the state of Kansas has utterly opted out of regulating wind farms. Instead, it has punted the whole question.
The SunZia transmission line that would link sun and wind power from central New Mexico with cities in Arizona is just the sort of energy project an environmentalist could love -- or hate. And it is just the sort of line the Interior Department has been tasked with promoting -- or guarding against. If built, the 460-mile line would carry about 3,000 megawatts of power, enough to avoid the need for a handful of coal-fired plants and to help utilities meet mandated targets for use of renewable fuel.
The greater prairie chicken of eastern Kansas has been declining with the encroachment of man. Roads have broken up vast rangeland, as well as oil wells, wind farms and cell phone towers. Cedars and other trees and shrubs have invaded their territory. Suburban development also is a factor as a growing number of residents buy small parcels of land to build a home.
A century ago prairie chickens may have been the most common wild bird on the High Plains. Today's lesser prairie chicken population is thought to be just 3 percent of what it was a century ago. Wildlife experts say the reason is simple: native grasslands are disappearing and without the habitat they need, prairie chickens are dying off. ...And now wind turbines threaten to blanket parts of the grassland.
An estimated 266 whoopers - the largest wild flock of endangered whooping cranes - will migrate from Wood Buffalo National Park in the Canadian Northwest Territories to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas this fall. This migration route takes them directly through the center of the Central Flyway ...threats to the flock, including water and land development in Texas, wind farm construction in the migration corridor, and tar sands waste ponds in Canada all increased in 2008.
Wind project developer, owner, and operator Horizon Wind Energy will offset the effects of its new wind farm in north central Kansas by investing in a 20,000 acres of offsite habitat restoration to benefit grassland birds, especially the greater prairie-chicken. Horizon Wind Energy signed the conservation investment agreement Wednesday with the Ranchland Trust of Kansas and The Nature Conservancy of Kansas.
Whooping cranes, one of the world's rarest birds, have waged a valiant battle against extinction. But federal officials warn of a new potential threat to the endangered whoopers: wind farms. Down to as few as 16 in 1941, the gargantuan birds that migrate 2,400 miles each fall from Canada to Texas, thanks to conservation efforts, now number about 266. But because wind energy, one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk - from either crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms. "Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
I am equally saddened to see the sorry, unreliable, expensive substitute - a "wind farm" - being installed just west of Salina. A recent full-page ad in the Journal-World dishonestly portrayed children playing under a wind turbine. Fact is, the noise created by these gigantic turbines will make the land uninhabitable for nearly all forms of life, including people and birds. No responsible parent would allow their loved ones to live or play around these monsters.
Just more than 43 percent of the landowners have signed a formal protest petition stating that they do not want to live in an industrial park. The actual percentage of landowners against this project was closer to 67 percent. ...These are the landowners that live within 1,000 feet of where these intrusive machines are proposed to be built. I use the word intrusive because there is no other way to describe how these 67 percent feel about being forced by others to live under conditions they had not chosen for themselves. Conditions from which the county itself vowed to protect.
Now those concerned about prairie chickens wonder whether a competing and more commercially marketable sound - that of the wind - will impact the chickens' booming. Research being conducted in this area under the direction of KSU biology professors Samantha Wisely and Brett Sandercock seeks to determine how the development of wind energy might impact prairie chickens.
Worries about the future of the local ecosystem have cropped up as debate swirls around the proposed Ellis County wind farm. A more specific target for these concerns has been prairie chickens - both lesser and greater prairie chickens make their homes in Kansas prairies.
Two Kansas State University biology professors are studying how wind farm turbines impact prairie chickens. Brett Sandercock and Samantha Wisely received a four-year, 630-thousand dollar grant from the National Wind Coordinating Committee Wildlife Workgroup, a national group of private landowners, energy developers and conservationists.
Funds are now in place to begin a four-year study to establish what impacts, if any, wind power facilities have on prairie-chicken demography and population genetics.