Company: Wyoming wind farm eagle deaths overestimated

2013-12-23T19:00:00Z 2013-12-23T20:36:21Z Company: Wyoming wind farm eagle deaths overestimatedThe Associated Press The Associated Press
December 23, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

CHEYENNE — The developers of what could become the nation's largest wind energy project say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has overestimated how many eagles could be killed by wind turbines at the site.

They say they're planning a variety of measures to reduce eagle deaths at the $5 billion Chokecherry/Sierra Madre wind power project south of Rawlins, and those steps will result in fewer deaths than the BLM estimate of 46 to 64 per year.

The BLM number is "extremely high," Garry Miller, vice president of land and environmental affairs for the Power Company of Wyoming LLC, said at a public scoping meeting for the project last week in Saratoga.

So how many eagles does the company expect will be killed?

Miller said he's discussing that with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while the company prepares to apply for an eagle take permit for the project's 500-turbine first phase. He declined to give a specific number while that's happening.

The Power Company of Wyoming, a wholly owned affiliate of Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz's The Anschutz Corp., plans eventually to install 1,000 turbines on the sagebrush-covered northern foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. That many turbines would generate enough electricity to power 1 million homes.

Eagle take permits give Fish and Wildlife more say to work with industries to prevent eagle deaths. The agency has yet to issue one for a wind farm.

Nevertheless, Fish and Wildlife expects to receive an eagle take application from the Chokecherry/Sierra Madre developers in the weeks ahead. Fish and Wildlife has laid out a review process for the anticipated permit that will take about a year.

Fish and Wildlife officials are aware of the BLM's eagle death estimate but plan to come up with their own estimate based on their own methodologies, said Dave Carlson, project lead for Fish and Wildlife.

"But that definitely caught our attention, in terms of we really need to pay attention to what's going on with this project," Carlson said.

He said the goal is to keep eagle deaths to a minimum and find ways to offset the eagles that will be killed. An offset option might be for the developer to retrofit old power poles in the area that have been a longstanding electrocution risk for eagles, he said.

Company officials say the BLM estimate was drawn from eagle mortality rates at wind farms where measures to protect eagles weren't taken, a caveat the BLM mentioned in its environmental impact statement for the wind farm that included the estimate.

The Power Company of Wyoming has spent 5,000 hours studying eagles in a 700-square-mile area on and around the project site, according to company officials. The site is a roughly 50-50 mix of federal land and private land owned by another Anschutz company, the Overland Trail Cattle Company LLC.

Power Company of Wyoming biologists have identified eagle flight corridors, nesting areas and areas frequented by the birds' prey. The developers plan to keep wind turbines away from places where they're likely to kill eagles.

The company also will look at shutting down certain turbines during eagle nesting season and at other times based on observed eagle activity.

The vast majority of eagles observed at the project site have been golden eagles, which are North America's largest bird of prey. Golden eagles typically eat small, ground-dwelling animals, whereas bald eagles often eat fish and are more common along the Platte River about 15 miles to the east.

The vast majority of the area's golden eagles seem to be resident birds rather than migrating eagles that pass through in the spring or fall, Miller said.

Many of the resident eagles are "bachelors" and "bachelorettes" that are difficult to count. The remainder of the resident population includes 14 to 16 eagles in nesting pairs. The company has documented seven to eight active eagle nests within the survey area but no active nests on the project site within the past two years, Miller said.

Whether the resident eagles are more or less vulnerable to wind turbines in their neighborhood is an unanswered question.

"There's a lot of interest in trying to figure that out," Miller said. "Do the resident eagles kind of get used to it?"

Recent research concludes that the western U.S. golden eagle population is stable.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. Gunnysack
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    Gunnysack - December 26, 2013 8:20 am
    Wait 'til you see how many birds will be killed if the proposed "Pioneer Wind Park" south of Glenrock gets built. Anyone checking to see if they've got their "incidental take" permit, and who in the U.S. government signed it?
  2. Hill Town Trader
    Report Abuse
    Hill Town Trader - December 25, 2013 1:30 pm
    The graft and fraud associated with Wind subsidies is paid for with dollars forcibly taken from hard working tax payers. Theft in the name of Eco-correctness.
  3. Hill Town Trader
    Report Abuse
    Hill Town Trader - December 25, 2013 1:25 pm
    Let's see: this eco-theologist hates hydro carbons and hate wind energy as well. But Weigand sees to love the electricity that power his computer. How does one spell Hypocrisy.
  4. Spin Detector
    Report Abuse
    Spin Detector - December 24, 2013 6:29 pm
    All the estimates on eagle kill are just that-bulljunk!.. Greenpeace is on the oceans finding whale killers all the time. Where are the green boys and girls with photos and real proof of these eagle killings. Its all conjecture! The studies that have been taken are based on small areas of these wind farms. If there are lots of dead birds- show the pics on the front page of the news!! Eagles can see a mouse moving in the grass at high elevations and they can't avoid a windmill? Bats have radar and can turn 180 in a split second and can't avoid a 150' windmill blade? Think it through in reality. Now I agree these swinging monsters can't possible provide enough energy to be cost effective,get rid of them for being a boondoggle.....costing taxpayers to provide jobs for a negative payback.
  5. wiegand
    Report Abuse
    wiegand - December 24, 2013 10:06 am
    "The company also will look at shutting down certain turbines during eagle nesting season and at other times based on observed eagle activity"............ The wind industry always makes vague unenforceable statements like this. . How about a statement that the company will only be installing bird safe turbines because the golden eagles and other species will eventually be wiped out.

    With the wind industry there has been a consistent pattern for over 30 years of fraud and deceit. They will conduct endless and inconclusive studies. Important people will talk about it in the news, they will hold your hands, pretend to review public comments, they will hold hearings the public can scream out with disgust, but in the end these projects are built.. But if you let one in, they will never stop building.

    It amazes me that companies and leaseholders could ever be allowed to proceed with these devastating projects and then be allowed extract profits after inflicting such massive destruction. It also amazes me that there are so many cowards and people willing to sell out that work for the Interior Department.
  6. wiegand
    Report Abuse
    wiegand - December 24, 2013 9:31 am
    The BLM estimate of 46 to 64 per year will at some point be an overestimate because populations will collapse. How about some estimates from unbiased ethical sources with an IQ over 80. Keep in mind that the just the Montezuma Hills and Altamont Pass turbines are killing between 5-10% of the golden eagle population left in all of California and Oregon.each year. There are about 800 MW in this area. This planned project is a much bigger project in prime golden eagle habitat. The FWS, the BLM nor any one else with the wind industry will ever do any cumulative impact studies to document the golden eagle population decline taking place because they know exactly what is taking place and they do not want the public to know.
  7. 99Savage
    Report Abuse
    99Savage - December 24, 2013 9:19 am
    Wind energy is much more about the harvesting of government subsidies than about generating electricity. This "green" (cough, cough) energy is taxpayer subsidized by a factor of more than 50 times that of traditional energy sources. Without that and the federal and state i.e. Kalifornia, mandates these bird blenders and bat whackers would not exist. Now they must even be granted eagle kill permits.

    In related news, electrical rates for us taxpayers are at an all time high.
  8. thehousemouse
    Report Abuse
    thehousemouse - December 24, 2013 6:15 am
    These guys must think wyoming people are flat out stupid. 500 turbines means at least 500 birds and thats just one per turbine. even 46 birds is 45 to many to power another state with our wide open spaces and wind. wyoming wont be useing this energy its for california so tell us again why we need to litter up our landscapes with these monstrocities?
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