Feds Allow Eagle Kills at Solano Wind Farm

By Published On: July 3, 2014

Wind power’s impact on a close relative of the U.S.A.’s avian symbol of freedom—the golden eagle—gives this patriotic July 4th week a slightly different meaning. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced June 27 that the 100 MW Shiloh IV wind project in Solano Co. can kill some golden eagles as it runs turbines. In bureaucratic terms, the agency noted it would allow a “take” permit “pursuant to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act” because there would be “no significant impact.” In exchange, the developer EDF Renewable, is required to “implement a conservation program to avoid, minimize, and compensate for the project's impacts to eagles,” according to Fish & Wildlife. Although the federal agency is ready to approve the kill permit it says the mitigation plan should avoid eagle deaths by turbine blade. “The issuance of a take permit means the Service has concluded that the project, through its avoidance measures, conservation strategies and compensatory mitigation program, would result in no net loss of golden eagles,” stated Rick Miller, EDF director of wind business development, West region. “No‐net‐loss means that these actions either reduce another ongoing form of mortality to a level equal to or greater than the unavoidable mortality, or lead to an increase in carrying capacity that allows the eagle population to grow by an equal or greater amount,” according to Fish & Wildlife. According to a 2010 Fish & Wildlife study for the California Energy Commission, “take” under the U.S. bird protection act means “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest, or disturb.” The Center for Biological Diversity was pleased by the additional requirements but disagreed with the “no net loss” conclusion by the federal agency. It applauded the additional permit requirements to detect and avoid golden eagles to reduce the wind farm’s impact. “However, we remain concerned that the cumulative impacts to golden eagle populations in this area was not accurately assessed and that the level of golden eagle deaths from this and other existing and planned wind projects in the area is not sustainable,” stated Lisa Belenky, Center senior attorney. Belenky also questioned federal requirements for eagle death alleviation. “The use of power pole retrofits as a mitigation option for a wind project is not ‘additive’ mitigation for the species because the utility companies responsible for these power poles are already liable for impacts to golden eagles and those companies should be retrofitting the ‘problem’ poles. Shifting the responsibility for this mitigation to the wind project does not truly add new mitigation or protections for the golden eagles in this area,” she added. The developer noted it “worked collaboratively with the Fish & Wildlife and environmental stakeholders throughout the development of the Shiloh IV wind project,” stated EDF’s Miller. “Our company pursued the permit based on our responsible development practices to avoid and minimize environmental impacts. Being the first permit issued, the process wasn't always the smoothest but in the end we believe that wind turbines and eagles can co-exist so the journey was worthwhile,” Miller added. The power from the project is contracted to Pacific Gas & Electric for 25 years, according to EDF. It went online in December 2012.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now