An update on Black Swamp Bird Observatory's struggle to
protect birds from poorly placed wind turbines in the
critical migratory bird stopover habitat in northwest Ohio.
You've all seen that play, right? The runner has the ball, he's fighting off defenders like a mad man, dragging tacklers down the field, making forward progress in spite of the odds, and then...
He gets clobbered by the one he didn't see coming.
The image below is the one we didn't see coming.
A large wind turbine ready to be installed at the
Erie Business Park in Ottawa County, Ohio.
Only a few miles from Magee Marsh.
Only a few miles from Magee Marsh.
Would that it were only a game. And when the play ended and the whistle blew, we could simply shake off the hit and return to real life. But it isn't a game. This is real life. The playing field is critical migratory bird habitat. The players are just ordinary people with an EXTRAordinary level of dedication to protecting bird habitat. And we are really feeling this latest hit.
The turbine above is NOT the Camp Perry wind turbine that Black Swamp Bird Observatory has been fighting for months. No, this is ANOTHER wind turbine that no one knew anything about. Not the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Not the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). They learned about it from us, and we heard about it from a private citizen who just happened to be in the area and noticed the massive structure lying on the ground. This turbine is in something called the Erie Business Park, just west of the Camp Perry facility. DEEP in the heart of some of the most bird-sensitive habitat in northwest Ohio. In an area where there are more than 60 Bald Eagle nests. In an area where songbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl by the millions stop over in migration to rest and feed during their journey. In an area where you'd think it would be easy to protect birds, right?
Take a look at the size of the tower sections compared to the utility pole in the picture. This is not a small turbine.
Now take a look at the Erie Business Park's website, at the link called "The Future." If you look carefully at this stylized map, you'll see plans for SIX large wind turbines across the back of the property. Perhaps this is nothing more than a vision at this point. But with one turbine already on site, they appear to be putting that vision into motion.
And this is all we know. The person listed as the contact for the business park is not taking calls or returning messages, so no one knows anything more.
And, in spite of BSBO's efforts to stop the Camp Perry turbine, in spite of all the official support for our position from state and national conservation organizations, after state and federal wildlife officials told Camp Perry that the project's Environmental Assessment (that they paid a lot of taxpayer money for) was riddled with inaccuracies, misleading statements, and erroneous findings, and Camp Perry ignored wildlife officials and issued their own "Finding of No Significant Impact.." we have heard nothing--no response at all--from the officials at Camp Perry about that project, either.
We've contacted the local media and there's a story in the works. We'll wait to see if it tells the real story or if we can just add it the pile of news stories that completely and utterly miss the point.
A bit about regulating wind energy development
Regulation of commercial-scale wind projects is complex and complicated. When a wind project exceeds 5 megawatts, the Ohio Power Siting Board has to review it. Most of these single turbines do not exceed that limit, so they stay under the radar in most cases. Local level zoning and certain grants that require federal wildlife review are the only real "regulations" that stand in their way--even in the most bird sensitive areas. For the most part, there is no consideration of environmental impact on these single turbine application at all. They can literally go up without anyone knowing or reviewing the impact.
The current USFWS guidelines for commercial wind energy development are VOLUNTARY - and they fail miserably to protect birds. And, while the country's conservation organizations focus on commercial-scale wind development (and rightfully so), these single turbine projects are busting through any barriers that might have protected birds in these incredibly sensitive areas. Bottom line, if you string enough single turbines together you have a wind farm. And commercial developers know it!
We've already lost the battle to stop three large wind turbines at Oregon City Schools to the west of Magee Marsh. Two at one location and a third at another school.
|Two large turbines at|
Eisenhower Middle School
near Maumee Bay State Park
“The turbine that they have at Clay is huge – the largest of its kind on our system. It really needs to be on a wind farm. That’s what it was designed for – not for a distribution system. Either system could backfeed into the other when a generator over-commits and pushes energy back into the system. We have guys working on our system every minute of every hour of every day. To think a line is de-energized when it’s energized – that’s a huge safety risk on our part.”
Add the Oregon City School turbines to the ones at Camp Perry and Erie Business Park, and you start to see what birds are going to be up against before long.
It is going to take citizen action to stop this. Birders who care have got to step up, band together, and speak out about this. As individuals, we can no longer sit on the sidelines and depend on wildlife officials to protect wildlife habitat. They need our help.
If you care about migratory bird habitat in northwest Ohio, then we urge you to let some of the "powers that be" know about it.
Contact the Ottawa County Commissioners office and let them know that you expect Ottawa County to protect the habitat that migratory birds depend on for survival - or you will not spend your money in their County!
Let Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur know how you feel about wind turbines threatening migratory bird stopover habitat in her District.
One Maritime Plaza - Sixth Floor
Toledo, OH 43604
(800) 964-4699 - Tel: (419) 259-7500
Fax: (419) 255-9623
Please, do what you can to educate yourself about wind energy development and speak up for the protection of wildlife habitat. The voice of the people is the best hope for the future.