A U.S. military project to erect a 131-foot-tall wind turbine with rotor blades 135 feet in diameter in what a conservation group calls “one of the greatest bird migration corridors in the Western Hemisphere” has been abruptly halted.
The decision to stop work on a 600-kilowatt turbine at Camp Perry along Lake Erie was revealed in a letter [PDF] from the National Guard Bureau (the entity that runs the National Guard) to the attorneys representing the American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory, who earlier this month had threatened a lawsuit if the project proceeded.
The three-paragraph letter said that the “finding of no significant impact” (FONSI) by the military had been withdrawn and “the project will not go forward at this time.” Air Force Col. Peter A. Sartori, director for installations and mission support for the bureau, went on to say that further reviews would take place but gave no timetable for a final decision on the turbine’s fate.
All branches of the U.S. military are striving to boost their use of renewables, and the Air National Guard said the Camp Perry turbine would offset 72 percent of the electricity used by the base. But the bird groups, pointing to assessments by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the turbine location presented “a high level of risk to migratory birds,” sent a letter of intent to sue if the project were not halted.
Seems to have worked.
“The victory sends a strong message to other wind energy developers in this ecologically sensitive region that conservationists will be closely watching their actions,” Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of American Bird Conversancy’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign, said in a statement. “While we support wind energy as a sustainable energy source, we insist that turbines be sited where their impacts to birds and other wildlife can be minimized. This project was among the worst we have seen in that regard.”
The federally funded project originally was to consist of three lakeside turbines at the base, which sits beside state and federal wildlife refuges. But under pressure, the Air National Guard trimmed the project to the single turbine. The birders were particularly concerned about the turbine’s impact on the federally endangered Kirtland’s warbler. “This imperiled species was nearly extinct less than 40 years ago and, while rebounding due to costly and intensive management efforts, still numbers only in the low thousands,” the groups said.