Shaffer Mountain Wind, LLC proposes to develop a 30-turbine industrial wind energy project in Somerset and Bedford Counties in Pennsylvania. That project cannot lawfully proceed without various federal authorizations, including a section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps") and a supporting Biological Opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("FWS" or "Service").
Because this project will likely kill and otherwise "take" the highly imperiled Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), the Corps and the Service have entered into formal consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"), 16 U.S.C. § 1536, and, on or around November 19, 2010, the Service circulated to the Corps and the developer a draft Biological Opinion analyzing the project's impacts to the species. That Opinion strongly reinforces our comments to date that have explained the significant and severe effects that the proposed project will have on Indiana bats, in part due to the still-unknown location of at least one critical maternity colony on the project site. In addition, as explained in more detail below, there are various other wildlife issues that have not been adequately analyzed and thus do not currently support the construction of this project.
As we have previously explained and discuss further below, this project will have unacceptable impacts on federally protected wildlife, including unprecedented risks to a highly endangered species. Especially in view of the Opinion, it is now abundantly clear that this is simply not the appropriate location for a major wind power project, and federal authorization for the project should be denied.
I. The Draft Biological Opinion Highlights The Grave Harms That The Proposed Project Will Inflict On Indiana Bats, But Fails To Proceed To The Logical Next Step Of Addressing Siting Avoidance, Relocation, Or Modification.
II. There Are Serious Risks To Migratory Birds, But The Developer Has Not Evidenced Its Intent To Comply With The MBTA Or BGEPA.
III. The Draft Biological Opinion Strongly Supports Denial Of The Developer’s Section 404 Permit, And At Minimum Demands Preparation Of An EIS.
It is abundantly clear, and the draft Biological Opinion confirms, that the proposed project location is essential wildlife habitat, including for a highly endangered species. The site should be abandoned in favor of one where minimization and mitigation measures can reduce impacts and risks to an acceptable level. At bare minimum, the Service and Corps must address site location as a threshold matter, and require far more extensive pre-construction surveys, and the Corps must embark on preparation of an EIS to consider the significant impacts associated with a project that threatens at least one Indiana bat maternity colony, will require Golden eagles to run a perilous gauntlet of deadly turbines, and poses grave risks to other invaluable natural resources in the area.