ABC, BSBO Say Icebreaker Could Affect Bird Migrations

Two bird conservation organisations have raised concerns by the new proposal to develop wind energy. 

Icebreaker Could Affect Bird MigrationsIn an April 4 letter, the Washington, D.C.-based American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Ohio-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), voiced concerns about the six-turbine “Icebreaker” project, located off the shores of Ohio, to Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) Chair Thomas Johnson.

It is one of three wind developments either proposed, approved, or under construction in the area.

ABC and BSBO consider the location of the Icebreaker project, owned by LEEDCo, to pose risk to migrating songbirds, in particular, the federally endangered Kirtland’s Warbler and Piping Plover, as well as migrating raptors, Bald Eagles, and waterfowl. ABC has created a Wind Development Bird Risk Map that shows the Lake Erie shoreline in Ohio is among the worst possible locations for a wind power project.

“… the south shore of Lake Erie is a major migration bottleneck for neotropical migrants flying north from Central and South America to breed in the boreal forests of Canada,” said the letter from Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign, and BSBO’s Executive Director Kimberly Kaufman.

“Bird movements in such areas, especially during adverse weather events, are more volatile and hence less predictable than they are on nesting or wintering grounds. As a result, there is a high likelihood of major mortality events involving federally protected birds associated with wind turbines in this area,” the letter said further.

According to Hutchins, “ABC and BSBO support responsible wind energy development, but only if it is Bird Smart. Bird Smart wind energy development is primarily about appropriate risk assessment during siting. The location of this facility in close proximity to the Lake Erie shoreline and the height of the proposed turbines could be a deadly combination for birds.” 

The letter also referenced the recent passage of a resolution by the Ohio Senate to create a Bird Ohio Day (SR 287). The resolution recognizes the importance of Ohio as a key stopover for millions of migratory birds and the economic importance of birding to the state. Some 70,000 people visit northwest Ohio each year to view the migration and, in the process, inject $37 million into the state’s economy.

“ABC and BSBO will be monitoring the situation closely and expect that all federal and state wildlife laws intended to protect our public trust resources will be followed to the letter,” Kaufman said.

Press Release, April 23, 2014; Image: Mdf