Birding groups sue Ohio Air National Guard to block wind-turbine at Camp Perry

Birding groups sue Ohio Air National Guard to block wind-turbine at Camp Perry

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The Black Swamp Bird Observatory joined the American Bird Conservancy on Monday in a federal lawsuit to block construction of a wind turbine at Camp Perry due to fears it would destroy migrating birds and bats. (Photo courtesy of Black Swamp Bird Observatory)

James F. McCarty, The Plain DealerBy James F. McCarty, The Plain Dealer
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on March 27, 2017 at 4:35 PM, updated March 27, 2017 at 4:43 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – State and national birding groups sued the Ohio Air National Guard on Monday, asking a federal court to block construction of a large wind turbine at Camp Perry near Lake Erie.

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory, based in Oak Harbor in Ottawa County, suspects the proposed wind turbine would violate the Endangered Species Act, posing as a lethal bird-killing machine for bald eagles and migrating songbirds and bats.

BSBO joined with the American Bird Conservancy to file the 31-page lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Air National Guard declined to comment.

“We’re not aware of the lawsuit, and would not be able to comment on any litigation,” said Stephanie Beougher of the Adjutant General’s Department.

Michael Hutchins, director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program, called the National Guard turbine project a “disaster,” and “perhaps the worst possible place for wind energy development.”

The planned construction site is located less than a mile from Lake Erie and situated in one of the largest confluences of migratory birds and bats in the world, Hutchins said. In addition to numerous bald eagle nests, the lakeshore in that area provides passage for endangered species such as Kirtland’s warbler and piping plover.

“We have many peer-reviewed studies documenting the impact of wind energy on birds and bats,” said Kimberly Kaufman, BSBO’s executive director. “And yet it takes a lawsuit to protect one of the most important migratory bird stopover habitats in the Western Hemisphere.”

The birding groups are asking the court to halt the project until the National Guard obtains the proper permits and conducts environmental impact assessments required by the Endangered Species Act.

In 2014, the BSBO and Bird Conservancy successfully halted construction of the 600-kilowatt wind turbine after determining the Air National Guard had failed to obtain the proper certifications.

The National Guard subsequently completed an environmental assessment and obtained permission from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which the BSBO and Conservancy maintain are inadequate.

The birding groups have cited a new radar study that shows vast numbers of migratory birds and bats move through the area, flying at altitudes that would bring them within the 198-foot rotor-swept zone of the Camp Perry turbine.

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