Plans for a wind power project in Ohio have been stalled after two organizations threatened lawsuits with concerns about migrating birds in the region. The Toledo, Ohio wind turbine was supposed to be built at Camp Perry on the shore of Lake Erie. However, the American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory said they would sue the Ohio National Guard if the project proceeded.
According to the two groups, the wind turbine would endanger birds that migrate through the area and violate federal laws protecting bald eagles. They say there are about 60 bald eagle nests within 10 miles of the turbine. “It’s probably one of the top five migration corridors in the U.S.,” Robert Johns of the American Bird Conservancy, told the Associated Press. Birds migrate from Northern Canada to as far as South America and use Camp Perry as a rest stop on the way.
The Ohio Air National Guard officials claim the wind project would not greatly affect the birds after an assessment was conducted. They also point out millions of birds are killed by collisions with manmade structures in the U.S. annually. Most collision deaths come from accidents with power lines, communication towers, and glass windows. According to the American Bird Conservancy, approximately 300 million to one billion birds die from flying into glass on buildings each year (I’m assuming window cleaner is an accessory in these deaths.) Meanwhile, officials estimate only 573,000 birds die from wind turbines annually.
Any bird death that could have been avoided is unfortunate, so some compromises have been suggested. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended building the turbine, but shutting it off during spring and fall migration. Others suggest placing lights around the turbine to help birds avoid crashing. Johns suggests putting the turbine in another area completely. He said, “We’re not opposed to wind energy. All we’re saying is ‘Don’t put it up where it shouldn’t be.'”
My suggestion was to make a small plane that looked like a bird and guide the flocks around the turbine Fly Away Home style. Apparently, one would have to be present when they hatched to gain their trust though, and spend months teaching them to follow the plane, so it seems like this plan isn’t in the cards. Also, this idea was incredibly ill-received around the office…
As for what will happen with the Camp Perry project is currently unknown. Another turbine near Camp Perry has already been built, but is not yet in operation. In an effort to increase green energy development, the Obama Administration announced it would allow some companies to kill or injure eagles for up to 30 years without penalties. Those companies would require a permit and need to report any and all eagle deaths, and prove they have made efforts to avoid killing birds.
The director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Kim Kauffman, said “If we were to learn it killed migrating birds or eagles, we would pursue legal action.” The Camp Perry wind turbine is one of two dozen wind projects planned for sites around Lake Erie in Ohio. While wind energy is much healthier for the environment and its inhabitants than fossil fuel-powered energy, it is upsetting to think it could cause harm to many species of birds. As the fight continues, we will see if the National Guard thinks wind energy is worth the risk.
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