Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Groups threaten legal action against Camp Perry wind-power project

A pair of avian protection groups is taking on the Ohio National Guard over its siting of a wind—power generating project at the 640-acre Camp Perry training facility along the Lake Erie shoreline in Ottawa County.
Both The Plains, Va.-based American Bird Conservancy group and the Toledo area-based Black Swamp Observatory are threatening legal action against the ONG, potentially launching a lawsuit over possible violations of several federal wildlife protection laws.
Among them are the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Of concern to both the Black Swamp group and the Bird Conservancy group is that locating a wind-power generating project along Lake Erie's Western Basin poses a very real and serious threat to a host of migrating wild fowl.
The area is a pinch-point for seasonal bird migration. The shortest distance across Lake Erie and aided by the placement of Pelee Island and the Bass Islands, this marshy section of Ohio allows birds to either quickly and easily circumnavigate around Lake Erie or else hop-scotch across the water via the islands.
So vital to migrating birds is that both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife maintain important wildlife refuges in close proximity to Camp Perry.
Long an advocate for considering the serious and potentially damaging threat to bird migration posed by what it believes to be ill-conceived siting of wind-powered generating projects, the Bird Conservancy group is not mincing words about the Camp Perry venture.
Pretty much located at Ground Zero of a “major migration corridor” next to bird refuges is hardly an idea whose time has come, a Bird Conservancy official also says.
“The proposed development ignores the many concerns expressed by federal and state wildlife professionals,” says Michael Hutchins, the Bird Conservancy's Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign's national coordinator.
If all of this were not enough, Hutchins says the Bird Conservancy has generated what it calls a “Wind Development Bird Risk” map.
This document shows that the Lake Erie shoreline is “among the worst possible locations for a wind power project.”
If anything, says Hutchins also, scientists with the Fish and Wildlife Service have concluded as well that the project ultimately will “kill such threatened and endangered species such as the piping plover and the Kirtland's warbler.”
Thus, the wind-powered package represents an “extremely high risk” to migrating song birds, raptors, and other wild fowl, Hutchins says.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has even gone so far as to warn Camp Perry officials as to the threat the project poses to migrating birds and further has requested an environmental consultation.
Agreeing with the Bird Conservation group is the Black Swamp organization and its research director Mark Shieldcastle.
Shieldcastle is no stranger to either the area nor migratory birds. He is a retired Ohio Division of Wildlife avian biologist who once headed up the agency's Magee Marsh migratory bird research station, located just to the west of Camp Perry.
Shieldcastle notes that the area around Camp Perry has one of the highest concentration of nesting American bald eagles in the Lower 48 states and that these birds heavily utilize the area found within the project's sphere.
Perhaps worst of all, adds Kimberly Kaufman, the Black Swamp Group's director, the project “potentially sets a horrific precedent,” one that any developer can turn a blind eye to since many of the steps that need to be taken to help ensure minimal potential harm to migrating birds are voluntary.
“If we cannot even trust the government's own agencies to follow (the federal government's voluntary) guidelines, then it's time for a change to a mandatory permitting system,” Hutchins says.
Until and even if that happens Hutchins is requesting the developer to “immediately halt construction and take the (necessary) steps mandated by federal law to prevent the illegal killing of protected species.”
Camp Perry was built in 1909 and is home port to the 213th Ordnance Company (Missile Support, Corps); the 372nd Missile Maintenance Co., Detachment 1; the 200th Red Horse Civil Engineering Squadron of the Ohio Air National Guard; the U.S. Coast Guard Port Security- Unit 309: and various other components of the Ohio State Defense Forces.
The Ohio-owned facility also served as a World War II prisoner-of-war camp for captured German military forces.
Today Camp Perry likewise is the venue for the annual National Rifle and Pistol Matches, produced by the National Rifle Association and the Civilian Marksmanship Program.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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