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Birding groups rap wind turbines; Missed opportunity for public comment

The federal government has concluded that building two wind turbines with 120-foot-long propellers atop Turkey Point does not threaten eagles, other raptors or bats. But some birding groups that missed the opportunity to weigh in on the project when public comment was invited believe the environmental impact assessment is flawed.

The federal government has concluded that building two wind turbines with 120-foot-long propellers atop Turkey Point does not threaten eagles, other raptors or bats.

But some birding groups that missed the opportunity to weigh in on the project when public comment was invited believe the environmental impact assessment is flawed. They believe the assessment did not consider the area's important role as a stopover for tens of thousands of migratory shorebirds.

The Lancaster County Bird Club, Audubon Pennsylvania and Don Heintzelman, a Lehigh County ornithologist and author, are seeking to have the public comment period, which lasted 12 days, re-opened.

"Putting gigantic wind turbines in an area as well known as this represents a completely inappropriate siting of wind turbines," Heintzelman wrote in a letter to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, Manor Township supervisors and Turkey Hill Dairy.

"It makes a mockery of so-called 'green energy.' "

The waste authority and PPL plan to build two 360-foot-high wind turbines for $9.5 million on the edge of the county landfill on... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The federal government has concluded that building two wind turbines with 120-foot-long propellers atop Turkey Point does not threaten eagles, other raptors or bats.

But some birding groups that missed the opportunity to weigh in on the project when public comment was invited believe the environmental impact assessment is flawed. They believe the assessment did not consider the area's important role as a stopover for tens of thousands of migratory shorebirds.

The Lancaster County Bird Club, Audubon Pennsylvania and Don Heintzelman, a Lehigh County ornithologist and author, are seeking to have the public comment period, which lasted 12 days, re-opened.

"Putting gigantic wind turbines in an area as well known as this represents a completely inappropriate siting of wind turbines," Heintzelman wrote in a letter to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, Manor Township supervisors and Turkey Hill Dairy.

"It makes a mockery of so-called 'green energy.' "

The waste authority and PPL plan to build two 360-foot-high wind turbines for $9.5 million on the edge of the county landfill on Turkey Hill, overlooking the Susquehanna. PPL would sell generated electricity to the adjacent Turkey Hill Dairy.

An environmental assessment of the project was required because the U.S. Department of Energy is giving $1.5 million in stimulus funds to PPL.

One of the concerns was whether bald eagles that frequently use the area, or the endangered Indiana bat, could be hit by the blades.

Unlikely, concluded DOE and consultants hired by the waste authority and PPL that tallied all birds flying by the turbine site last spring and fall.

Although eagles flew by the area at a rate of between one and seven per hour, depending on the season, perhaps 3 raptors of all species might be killed by the turbines over a 20-year period, the assessment concluded.

The assessment cited studies indicating that, "generally, raptors are able to avoid wind turbines." As far as anyone knows, no bald eagle has ever been killed by a wind turbine in the Western states, the assessment said.

No Indiana bat colonies were found near Turkey Point, according to the assessment. However, two acres of trees will be cut down to discourage bats from roosting there.

In addition, the original site for the turbines was moved farther inland to minimize their impact on wildlife.

Concerns about birds was one reason the number of turbines was reduced from four to two, according to a PPL spokeswoman. Lighting on the turbines also will be bird-friendly.

The scope of what was studied was largely dictated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Several birding groups are critical of the assessment for not studying migratory shorebirds that use the nearby Conejohela Flats near Washington Boro.

"This is one of the most critical inland shorebird stopover areas in Pennsylvania," said Kim Van Fleet, Audubon Pennsylvania's Important Bird Area coordinator.

"Easily, 10,000 to 20,000 shorebirds go through there each year."

The Conejohela Flats is one of 85 Important Bird Areas designated in Pennsylvania.

"We do have concerns about the project," said Phil Wallis, executive director of Audubon Pennsylvania.

The Lancaster County Bird Club was not aware of the brief public-comment period and would now like to weigh in, according to its president, Ann Bodling of Elizabethtown.

"If we knew there would be a public-comment period, we would have commented and we would have encouraged individual members to comment."

The club, she said, assumes turbines "to be potentially a hazard to Lancaster County bird life along the river."

Bodling said a pair of peregrine falcons that have nested the last three years on bridges between Columbia and Wrightsville should also have been considered in evaluating the impact of putting turbines in the area.

Heintzelman, who has written nearly two dozen books on birds, criticized the assessment for not considering migrating tundra swans.

Bodling, however, said tundra swans no longer stage on the Conejohela Flats in the spring like they used to, instead concentrating at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.

However, 19 tundra swans were reported by a birdwatcher Sunday on the flats, according to a Web site sponsored by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society.

The notice informing residents of the public-comment period appeared in Lancaster and Harrisburg newspapers, as well as the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Not one comment was received.

"This was a very public process," said James Warner, executive director of the waste authority. He said there were dozens of opportunities for anyone to express an opinion on the project over the last two years.

Concerning criticism that not all birds that use the area were considered, Warner said, "We looked at what we were required to look at."


Source: http://articles.lancasteron...

FEB 23 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/24748-birding-groups-rap-wind-turbines-missed-opportunity-for-public-comment
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