Bird groups threaten suit over windmill project

Steve PollickIt looks as though bird conservationists are not going down without a fight against willy-nilly placement of wind turbines along the prime eagle-nesting and migratory bird corridor of western Lake Erie.

The Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Bird Conservancy have threatened to sue the Ohio Air National Gard over the construction and operation of a long-disputed wind turbine to be built at Camp Perry. The historic Camp Perry, site of the annual National Rifle and Pistol matches for more than a century,  is the state’s primary Army and Air Guard training base, sites west of Port Clinton along the lake.

BSBO and the ABC, the later based in The Plains, Va., say that they are prepared to sue to stop the Guard from building a 198-foot, 600-kilowatt , $1.5 million federally funded turbine near the Lake Erie shore. Construction is in progress, operation set for late next month. This pot has been boiling for more than a year.

The bird conservationists cite as the basis for their intended suit violations of federal and/or state acts meant to protect endangered species, bald eagles, and migratory birds. BSBP has long protested wind-turbine sitings in the critical lakeshore migratory bird habitat, and  it is worried mightily about the Camp Perry turbine location near bald eagle nests, contending the whirling blades will cause bird deaths. (This subject is summarized in detail in my commentary in this week’s print edition of Ohio Outdoor News.)

Attorneys representing BSBO and ABC have asked for a response from the Ohio Air Guard by Jan. 20. “If we do not receive an adequate response to our concerns by that date, ABC will have no choice but to consider legal action,” the organization states in a letter.

Kim Kaufman, Black Swamp’s executive director, told  The Blade newspaper in Toledo that BSBO “exhausted every other avenue” to resolve the issue and those attempts “failed on every level.” She said the goal is to not have the turbine, or any others, constructed in the area.

The Guard has argued that a windmill will permit it to expand its use of alternative energy at the camp, where a solar-power display already is used.

Another, bigger windmill – 325-feet into the sky and 900-kilowatts – already is up and whirling at the adjacent Lake Erie Business Park. Its construction and operation was possible because Ottawa County has weak zoning laws and because the state and federal governments have been lackadaisical about enforcing smaller windmill projects.

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