22 November 2010

Wind Power Developer Donation to Mitigate Habitat Impacts

Midwest Wind Energy has agreed to donate $70,000 to mitigate for the impacts to nesting grassland birds where it is developing the Laredo Ridge Wind Farm.

The project will have will have more than 50 wind turbines on about 7600 acres three miles northeast of Petersburg, Nebraska.

"The $70,000 will be given to the Nebraska Land Trust, and used to obtain conservation easements to protect grassland habitats," said Robert Harms, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service office in Grand Island, Nebraska.

The energy company has worked with the federal agency, as well as the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, to offset any negative impacts.

"As an agency, we advocate for smart wind development," Harms said, noting there were frequent conversations to discuss how to address concerns. "Midwest Power officials were very respectful, and understood the siting impacts."

Items Harms mentioned in particular were any potential "taking of birds" which is regulated by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, ensuring that power lines between the turbines would be buried, how to offset the direct impacts (i.e., habitat fragmentation due to the turbine pads and roads) and indirect impacts.

Another primary concern was how to offset the habitat changes at the project site which would affect grassland nesting birds.

The money provided to the land trust will be used to purchase easements on valuable native habitats, including prairie tracts, in the vicinity of the project site.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to work with wind farm developers to find effective means of offsetting impacts to wildlife resources as wind farms are developed to harness this alternative energy source," Harms said.

"I am hopeful that funds could be used for land acquisition or conservation easements. Its not likely that these kinds of funds would be used for urban buildings as it might be difficult to connect loss and degradation of habitat to collisions with windows in cities."