Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Vermont
A new mysterious and deadly illness of bats has struck New England's largest bat cave, a cavern in a Dorset mountain where 23,000 bats spend the winter, a state wildlife biologist confirmed today. Scott Darling saw the signs as he approached Aeolus cave Thursday. Carcasses of the tiny creatures lay in the snow. More bats flitted around the mouth of the cave, unnatural behavior for a frigid February day. "It was as though they were running out of energy and their last effort was to go outside in search of food," Darling, a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said today.
Far from being "environmentally friendly," the proposed project would effectively destroy one of the largest, if not the largest, bear habitats in Vermont. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources stated in recent testimony that the project "would result in significant adverse impacts to black bear habitat" and would "cause long-term harm to the bear population in southern Vermont." The Vermont Natural Resources Council has stated that the wildlife habitat in the western project area could not be mitigated. In other words, once destroyed, that habitat cannot be repaired or replaced.
In response to information about a mysterious illness that has been associated with the deaths of more than 8,000 bats, conservation groups today asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close all bat hibernation sites and withdraw all federal permits to “take” — that is, harm or kill — imperiled bats until the cause of the deaths is understood. One species of bat that is at risk is the endangered Indiana bat. While details are limited, scientists have given the name “white-nose syndrome” to describe a Fusarium mold that is exhibited around the dead bats’ noses. The syndrome is associated with the discovery of thousands of dead bats in at least two Albany, New York-area caves last winter. ...The Indiana bat is one of the most endangered terrestrial mammals in the world.
At least 200 Barton residents shouted a loud NO! to power generating towers in Barton and in Sheffield at a public meeting last week. The meeting was called to figure out a way to change Barton's Town Plan to remove any approving reference to wind tower generation in town. The theme of the meeting was that wind towers on Barton's and neighboring ridgelines would grossly disfigure the beauty of the town and of Crystal Lake. Liz Butterfield, owner of the Barton Village Corner Store said it all. "This petition basically reinforces that we don't want to look at the (towers) at the end of Crystal Lake, and we don't want the construction coming through. And in the future, we don't want wind development in the town of Barton. I think a 420-food wind tower at the end of a state park (Crystal Lake State Park) is a travesty."
Concerned citizens of the Deerfield Valley, and as far away as the Berkshires, have come together to form "Save Vermont Ridgelines." The current proposal before the public service board, to allow or deny construction of an industrial wind power plant on 80 acres of highly visible United States Forest Service- controlled ridgelines, has brought us together to consider the scope and consequences of these 17 410-feet tall machines, with flashing lights stretched across one of the area's most prominent ridgelines. ...The goal of our group is to inform the public of the full intent and consequences of this proposed wind experiment.
Ridge Protectors was an intervenor on the Sheffield Wind case before the Vermont Public Service Board. This petition letter was sent to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in response to the requirement that UPC Wind, the developer, secure a federal permit for wetlands impacts at the site.
Residents upset about recent state approval for a wind power project in a neighboring town have launched a petition drive to change the town plan to prohibit commercial wind power development. “This petition basically reinforces that we don’t want to look at the ones at the end of Crystal Lake, and we don’t want the construction coming through,” said Liz Butterfield, owner of the Barton Village Corner Store. “And in the future, we don’t want wind development in the town of Barton.” ...“I think a 420-food wind tower at the end of a state park is a travesty,” Butterfield said.
The petition basically duplicates the concerns the USFWS raised two months ago. It says that studies at existing wind facilities "have shown high mortality rates for birds and, especially so, for bats. Not mentioned in the hearings nor in any developer studies is the fact that ducks, geese, and other water fowl migrate over these ridge lines and stop over in the wetlands in the Sheffield project area. Threatened species of interior forest birds come north to live here for the warmer months. We are very concerned that their habitat and nesting will be severely interrupted. "Given the political pressure in Vermont and New England to construct renewable electric generation developments, particularly industrial-scale wind plants, we are concerned that otherwise thoughtful biologists and wildlife experts are being compelled to ignore their best judgment," it says. "We encourage you and your colleagues in EPA and the Corps of Engineers to exercise your authorities to the fullest and hope that our state and federal officials will encourage you as well.
"The USFWS has indicated that inadequate preconstruction data has been collected to evaluate risk to birds and bats," according to the Army's letter to UPC requesting more information. "Briefly discuss the data that has been collected and what additional data may be necessary to resolve the concerns of USFWS."
Army Corps' letter to UPC Wind states that the Sheffield Wind project "is not eligible for authorization under the VT General Permit, and must be reviewed under the individual permit review procedure." The letter further states that UPC Wind "may not proceed with any proposed work within our jurisdiction until you have received written authorization from this office." The full letter can be accessed by clicking on the link below.
This document includes studies in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
As a general comment, the Service appreciates the fact that UPC Wind has conducted radar and acoustic studies on bird and bat migration and bat activity at Hardscrabble Mountain and other locations at or near the proposed project. We believe the radar, visual, and acoustic information contained in the above-referenced reports is useful, but that it is not sufficient to demonstrate, at an appropriate scale, the spatial and temporal uses of the airspace over Granby, Libby, Barrett, and Norris Mountains by birds, bats, and insects.
Now, the state Public Service Board is refusing to approve the money that would have gone to the utility for removing the dam in Milton, a few miles upstream from where the Lamoille River flows into the lake. The board said it had to weigh the benefits to fish against the environmental benefits of generating enough power for 3,000 typical Vermont homes without discharging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, citing a 2005 law that calls on the state to get an increasing share of its power from renewable sources. Recent cases involving wind power projects "have illustrated the difficulty in siting renewable energy projects in Vermont," the board said. "Although Peterson Dam does not constitute a new renewable generation source" like those envisioned in Act 61, "it is a stably priced, existing renewable energy source that state policy declares should be 'retained and supported'."
Below are two Phase I Avian Risk Assessments reports, prepared by Paul Kerlinger, for Vermont's East Haven Wind Farm (July 2003) and New Hampshire's Lempster Mountain Wind Power Project (June 2005). Phase I assessments have proven inadequate in assessing mortality at several sites in the U.S. including Mountaineer in West Virginia and Meyersdale in Pennsylvania. The US Fish and Wildlife Interim Wind/Wildlife Guidelines calls for multi-year evaluation of avian and bat activity using remote sensing.
MONTPELIER, Vt. --A company's bid to build a wind farm atop a remote Northeast Kingdom mountain was rejected by the Public Service Board on Monday because of concerns about how the turbines would affect birds and bats.
ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED by the Public Service Board of the State of Vermont that: 1. The findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Hearing Officer are hereby adopted, as modified above. 2. The proposed Project will not promote the public good of the State of Vermont, and a certificate of public good shall not be issued pursuant to 30 V.S.A. § 248. Dated at Montpelier, Vermont, this 17th day of July , 2006.
Mr. Nye's paean to the electric companies aside, these huge industrial generators are not silent, they are not intelligent, and they are most certainly not friends to the environment.
For the reasons set forth.., I conclude that the proposed Project will not promote the general good of the state. Therefore, I recommend that the Board not issue a Certificate of Public Good for the proposed Project. However, if the Board does issue a CPG, I recommend that it include the conditions outlined in this Proposal for Decision.
The tract, given away by Rocking Stone Farm LLC, includes part of the ridgeline between Mount Equinox and Little Equinox, where a proposal for five 390-foot wind turbines is being debated locally.
My viewpoint was, and still is, that the huge towers (260 feet high), gigantic blades (add another 150 feet), blinking strobe lights, permanent removal of wind-hindering vegetation, and highly visible road and transmission infrastructures are totally inappropriate for wild, undeveloped, scenic and highly visible settings. And I said I thought that opponents should focus on those issues, as well as the small return in electricity for the massive public price paid, aesthetically and otherwise, and should perhaps stay away from the issue of bird mortality caused by the rapidly spinning blades. The jury is still out on that, I said, and conventional wisdom is that vastly more birds are killed by high-rise windows and free-running cats......Well, so much for conventional wisdom. Editor's Note This opinion piece was written in response to a letter received from Lisa Linowes that is available via the link below.