Article

Northwest wind power a threat to raptors

It is well known that raptors commonly fly at an altitude that puts them at particular risk for collision with wind power blades. Proper siting was touted as the key to green wind power. So why is wind power being sited in an Audubon Important Bird Area, and why is that Important Bird Area slated for border to border wind power development? The answer is simple. Instead of proper planning, Northwest wind power is being allowed to develop wherever infrastructure is available and politicians are agreeable.

The Columbia Gorge Audubon Society has monitored Northwest wind power for almost 20 years. We were not surprised by the recent eagle kill The Columbian reported May 18: "Washington wind turbines claim first known eagle victim."

The Goodnoe Hills Wind Project that is responsible for the death of the golden eagle is sited in National Audubon Society's designated Columbia Hills Important Bird Area in Klickitat County overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. The IBA program is Audubon's attempt to identify and protect significant bird habitat. Gorge Audubon conducted bird counts in the Hills, and our nomination led to its IBA designation.

The main factor in securing the IBA designation was the intensive use of the area by raptors. It is well known that raptors commonly fly at an altitude that puts them at particular risk for collision with wind power blades.

Proper siting was touted as the key to green wind power. So why is wind power being sited in an Audubon Important Bird Area, and why is that Important Bird Area slated for border to border wind power development? The answer is simple. Instead of proper planning, Northwest wind power is being allowed to develop wherever infrastructure... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Columbia Gorge Audubon Society has monitored Northwest wind power for almost 20 years. We were not surprised by the recent eagle kill The Columbian reported May 18: "Washington wind turbines claim first known eagle victim."

The Goodnoe Hills Wind Project that is responsible for the death of the golden eagle is sited in National Audubon Society's designated Columbia Hills Important Bird Area in Klickitat County overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. The IBA program is Audubon's attempt to identify and protect significant bird habitat. Gorge Audubon conducted bird counts in the Hills, and our nomination led to its IBA designation.

The main factor in securing the IBA designation was the intensive use of the area by raptors. It is well known that raptors commonly fly at an altitude that puts them at particular risk for collision with wind power blades.

Proper siting was touted as the key to green wind power. So why is wind power being sited in an Audubon Important Bird Area, and why is that Important Bird Area slated for border to border wind power development? The answer is simple. Instead of proper planning, Northwest wind power is being allowed to develop wherever infrastructure is available and politicians are agreeable.

Gorge Audubon believes wind power is already a disaster for Northwest birds. Who is responsible for this mess?

During years of reviewing wind power permits, we found that many significant omissions and deceptions were used to secure permits. For instance, The Columbian story reported that the proponent for the Big Horn Wind Energy Project in eastern Klickitat County had predicted the annual raptor mortality would be three to four birds, whereas follow-up monitoring suggests the actual raptor kill to be 31 to 49 birds per year. Drastically underestimating project bird kills is likely a common method for securing wind power permits.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried to force the wind power industry to solve the bird kill problem on the Columbia Hills site years ago with a warning of criminal arrest. That problem was never solved.

Politics changed, and state and federal wildlife agencies have since stood by and watched the Northwest wind power disaster unfold. They protested but took no action. Now they are scrambling to "fix" the problem. If development is allowed to continue in the Columbia Hills IBA and other areas intensively used by birds, you will know that they have failed.

Lack of attention

Where are National Audubon Society and the environmental groups that authored voluntary siting standards for wind power back when the industry first arrived in the Northwest? The answer is that most of them have received Bullitt Foundation grants and hope to receive them again. The Bullitt Foundation of Seattle is a strong advocate of wind power. In fact, Denis Hayes, Bullitt Foundation Director, once wrote Audubon Washington not to "monkey wrench" wind power in the Gorge. Since then, National Audubon Society has written a few letters protesting wind power in their Important Bird Area, but they have ignored our pleas for the one thing that would save the Columbia Hills IBA: a publicity campaign exposing this siting disaster.

It's time for a wind power reality check. Voluntary siting standards and wildlife guidelines may make the authors feel good, but they do not work. "Proper siting" has nothing to do with how wind power is actually sited. Phony mitigation measures offered by the wind power industry are unlikely to save even one bird. And the wildlife agencies need to find their spines.

The great hope of wind power is being squandered and turned into just another corporate money maker for the developers and equipment suppliers. Wind power will be joining the ranks of the other environmentally hazardous energy producers if our political leadership fails to make changes.

Governors Gregoire and Kulongoski, and President Obama, are you listening?

Dave Thies of White Salmon is president of the Columbia Gorge Audubon Society.


Source: http://www.columbian.com/ar...

JUL 5 2009
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