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Published: Monday, 10/15/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

CAMP PERRY

Wind turbine site ruffles area avian enthusiasts

Dangers to migratory birds are cited

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Hay bails cover the proposed site of a wind turbine, where soil samples were taken, at the 200th Red Horse Squadron of the Air National Guard located at Camp Perry near Oak Harbor.
Hay bails cover the proposed site of a wind turbine, where soil samples were taken, at the 200th Red Horse Squadron of the Air National Guard located at Camp Perry near Oak Harbor.
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PORT CLINTON — Twice a year, mi­gra­tory birds flock to the marshes and woods along Lake Erie.

In spring, song­birds stop in wooded lots, eat­ing in­sects and rest­ing be­fore the long flight across the lake to north­ern breed­ing grounds. This shore­line stretch that in­cludes Lu­cas, Ot­tawa, San­dusky, and Erie coun­ties at­tracts bird­ers as well who are ea­ger to spot bald ea­gles, wa­ter­fowl, and catch a rare glimpse of a pip­ing plo­ver or the small and col­or­ful Kirt­land’s war­bler.

The boun­ti­ful birds found here are why a pro­posed 198-foot wind tur­bine with whirl­ing blades, to be lo­cated about 1 mile from Lake Erie at Ot­tawa County’s Camp Perry, trou­bles avian ad­vo­cates. The proj­ect is un­der anal­y­sis and at­tack.

The coastal swath, dot­ted with wild­life ar­eas and ref­uges, is con­sid­ered a “glob­ally im­por­tant” hab­i­tat by bird­ers, said Kim Kauf­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Black Swamp Bird Ob­ser­va­tory in Oak Har­bor.

“We’ve just got to pre­serve these crit­i­cal pieces,” Ms. Kauf­man said.

She said a “pre­pon­der­ance of ev­i­dence” shows the pro­posed Camp Perry site is the wrong place to put a wind tur­bine. Ms. Kauf­man has been work­ing to gather op­po­si­tion from other groups and plans to send a let­ter to­day pro­test­ing the proj­ect to the 200th Red Horse squad­ron of the Ohio Air Na­tional Guard.

“It’s just as­tound­ing that they are still con­sid­er­ing it,” Ms. Kauf­man said.

Na­tional Guard of­fi­cials said proj­ect study and en­vi­ron­men­tal anal­y­sis con­tinue, as well as work to re­spond to con­cerns from the Ohio Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and the U.S. Fish and Wild­life Ser­vice.

It’s pre­ma­ture to dis­cuss con­cerns be­fore that anal­y­sis is fin­ished, Ohio Na­tional Guard spokes­man James Sims said.

“We un­der­stand that they are con­cerned about this. There is a pro­cess; we are work­ing through the pro­cess,” Mr. Sims said.

Those con­cerns re­volve around plans to in­stall at Camp Perry a 500-ki­lo­watt tur­bine, with an aim to gen­er­ate wind power, re­duce elec­tric costs, and aid re­search.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kap­tur (D., Toledo) helped se­cure about $1.5 mil­lion in fed­eral funds for the proj­ect. The Na­tional Guard en­tered into a con­tract with a firm that pur­chased a re­con­di­tioned wind tur­bine that could be used at the site but is not pres­ently lo­cated there, Lt. Col. Daniel Tack said.

Be­cause Camp Perry is an his­toric site, the proj­ect re­quires a his­tor­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view, he said.

There is no con­struc­tion time­line, of­fi­cials said.

Solar power is avail­able at the camp. Ad­ding wind gen­er­a­tion is just one of many Camp Perry in­vest­ments as­sisted by Miss Kap­tur, said her chief of staff, Steve Kat­ich. She views al­ter­na­tive en­ergy as a way to cre­ate jobs and cut costs, said Mr. Kat­ich, who added that Miss Kap­tur is a bird en­thu­si­ast.

The Na­tional Guard and state and fed­eral agen­cies should work to­gether to ad­dress bird-re­lated con­cerns, Mr. Kat­ich said.

“I would ex­pect that the guard is heed­ing the con­cerns of the fish and wild­life ser­vice and other en­ti­ties, and we would en­cour­age them to do that,” Mr. Kat­ich said. “I think there is an air of co­op­er­a­tion and dis­cus­sion that’s go­ing back and forth on this proj­ect. That is good. That is im­por­tant to al­lay the con­cerns of all the folks that are in­volved.”

Sixty bald ea­gle nests are lo­cated within 10 miles of the pro­posed proj­ect site, and one nest is about a half-mile away.

Those fish and wild­life ser­vice num­bers are among the rea­sons Mark Shield­cas­tle, Black Swamp re­search di­rec­tor, op­poses the Camp Perry site.

“It’s one of the dens­est nest­ing grounds for ea­gles in the lower 48,” Mr. Shield­cas­tle said.

Ohio’s bald ea­gle pop­u­la­tion pre­vi­ously was di­min­ished, he said, in part by con­tam­i­nants that climbed up the food chain. A re­cov­ery ef­fort helped bring back the sym­bolic bird to this re­gion, Mr. Shield­cas­tle said. Now, he’s wor­ried about ea­gles col­lid­ing with a wind tur­bine.

It’s hap­pened be­fore, said Megan Sey­mour, a fish and wild­life ser­vice bi­ol­o­gist who wrote a de­tailed re­view doc­u­ment­ing con­cerns with the pro­posed site.

“We know that bald ea­gles can be killed by wind tur­bines,” she said.

The fish and wild­life ser­vice rec­om­mended a num­ber of ac­tions to help mit­i­gate the risk of bird-tur­bine col­li­sions. Shut­ting off the tur­bine dur­ing the bus­i­est mi­gra­tory sea­sons, es­pe­cially dur­ing the high-dan­ger time pe­riod of dusk to dawn, is one sug­ges­tion. Birds are ac­tive dur­ing day­light and can see and avoid a tur­bine more eas­ily then, Ms. Sey­mour said.

“We do have a num­ber of con­cerns about the proj­ect. We can work with Camp Perry,” she said. “They’ve been pretty re­spon­sive to us so far.”

But pre­cau­tion­ary steps won’t elim­i­nate all prob­lems, con­tends Ms. Kauf­man, who points out the eco­nomic ben­e­fit bird­ers bring to the area through­out the year and dur­ing a large bird fes­ti­val. It would be bet­ter, Ms. Kauf­man said, to in­stall the tur­bine far­ther from the lake­shore area that serves as a sky high­way for mi­grat­ing birds.

Even if birds don’t crash into the tur­bine or its spin­ning blades, birds may be­gin to fly an­other route to avoid the tall struc­ture, she said. That “avoid­ance fac­tor” is just one of the prob­lems with the pro­posed site, she said.

Mr. Sims re­fused to ad­dress pub­licly bird­ers’ spe­cific con­cerns un­til proj­ect anal­y­sis is com­plete.

“They would like to have some an­swers, and all of that is go­ing to come out,” Mr. Sims said.

Ms. Kauf­man, mean­while, re­mains convinced the solu­tion lies in re­lo­cating the tur­bine.

“What we are go­ing to have to un­der­stand is that there are places along the lake­shore that we have to con­serve,” Ms. Kauf­man said. “We can ab­so­lutely have wind tur­bines. We just have to work to­gether to [find] good, re­spon­si­ble lo­ca­tions.”

Con­tact Va­nessa McCray at: vmc­cray@the­blade.com or 419-724-6065.



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