By James F. McCarty
PORT CLINTON, Ohio -- Conservation groups say a proposed wind turbine to be erected at the Ohio National Guard facility at Camp Perry would threaten American bald eagles and several endangered species, and they have sent notice of their intention to sue to stop the project.
In a letter released Wednesday, Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Bird Conservancy, a leading national organization, accused the National Guard of circumventing the environmental review process and of violating the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Black Swamp group has long opposed the wind turbine plan, maintaining it would threaten millions of birds and bats that pass over the lake during the spring and fall migrations. The migrants include endangered Kirtland’s warblers and piping plovers.
The letter from the bird conservancy groups asks the National Guard to “immediately halt construction of the wind turbine and to take the steps mandated by federal law to prevent the illegal killing of protected species.”
Black Swamp Research Director Mark Shieldcastle said the Lake Erie coastal region, including Camp Perry, features some of the largest concentrations of migratory birds and bald eagles in North America.
Kim Kaufman, director of the Black Swamp group, and her husband, Kenn, a prominent bird guide author, live near the proposed wind turbine site. They said the developers have misled the public about the dangers posed by the machines to wildlife.
“This project is the vanguard of a major planned build-out of wind power in what is one of the nation’s greatest songbird migration bottlenecks, and a key site for birding and bird tourism,” Kim Kaufman said. “It potentially sets a horrific precedent.”
The bird conservancy group created a map that it says demonstrates the Lake Erie shoreline is one of the worst possible locations for a wind power project. Large numbers of songbirds are “funneled” through the area between the Pelee Peninsula in Canada and Port Clinton.
“This funneling effect and stopover behavior can be predicted to put migrating birds precisely in the vicinity of the Camp Perry turbine and other wind energy sites proposed for the area,” Kenn Kaufman said.
Those claims are supported by experts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which predict a “high probability of bird mortality caused by turbine strikes from the project.”
Camp Perry officials have ignored requests for a consultation with the conservancy groups, they said. Officers with the national guard were not available to comment on the controversy Wednesday.
A larger wind farm is being planned for the Cleveland lakefront, where the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. wants to build six electrical-generating turbines on a site seven miles northwest of downtown.
The proposal met with opposition at a public hearing in November, sponsored by the Ohio Power Siting Board, which must approve the project. Several of the critics voiced concern about the impact the wind turbines would have on migrating birds and fish.